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Siouxsie Wiles says there's more to learn about Covid-19, 11 months on from first interview about 'mystery' virus in China

University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles first appeared on TVNZ1's Breakfast in January to discuss a "mystery" virus in China.

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The Auckland microbiologist first appeared on TVNZ1's Breakfast in January to discuss the threat of the then-unnamed coronavirus. Source: Breakfast

Today, she was back on Breakfast to discuss what has since been learned about the deadly illness, now named Covid-19, which has infected almost 72.5 million people worldwide and killed over 1.6 million.

Wiles said as Covid-19 cases surged, more and more was learned about the novel coronavirus.

"It's just astonishing the kinds of things we're finding out now," she said, talking about how New Zealand has used technology to track cases to exact locations they were infected.

"We have no community transmission or when we've had community transmission - and we're using the genome sequencing which has been an amazing thing to start using - we can really pinpoint where transmission has happened, which other countries are just looking at in awe because they've got so many cases.

"It's been amazing seeing New Zealand contribute to that."

However, Wiles said there was still a lot of unknowns about Covid-19.

"The big unknowns are around the so-called long Covid and the long term effects of people who've even maybe had a mild illness. What's that going to be? How many people suffer for a long time? What is that? Are they going to be able to get the care they need?" she said.

"We've seen with other sorts of long-term post-viral diseases that it just goes in the 'too hard pile'. There's 'oh, I don't really know what this is, too many weird symptoms'. So that's going to be the big challenge I think, making sure people get the care they need."

Wiles acknowledged everyone was exhausted and in need of a holiday as we near the end of 2020, but she reminded Kiwis not to be complacent over summer.

New Zealand has 56 active cases, all in managed isolation and quarantine according to the Ministry of Health's figures on Monday. Since the pandemic began there has been 1740 confirmed cases and 356 probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, 25 people have died of the illness, the majority being elderly people.