A 56-year old woman has become the centre of a new CCP virus scare for New Zealand, contracting the highly transmissible South African variant of the virus and becoming the country’s first locally transmitted case in over two months.
It is believed she became infected while in hotel quarantine, as she recently returned from overseas travel and completed two weeks of managed isolation in the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.
“All potential close contacts of the previously reported Northland case have now returned negative test results,” the Ministry of Health confirmed in a media statement on Jan. 27.
The woman had tested negative twice before leaving the hotel on Jan. 13. A few days later, she developed muscle aches but no respiratory symptoms. On Jan. 23, she tested positive for the virus.
“Our current advice is that although there is a low risk of exposure, out of an abundance of caution, we are asking individuals to stay at home and get a test if they visited these locations during the relevant times and call Healthline. You will need to continue to stay at home until you receive a negative test result back,” the Ministry of Health said.
New Zealand’s previous case of community transmission was on Nov. 18, 2020.
In response, Australia’s health minister Greg Hunt immediately announced an end to the travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours.
“Anyone who has arrived in Australia on a flight from New Zealand on or since January 14 is asked to isolate and arrange to be tested and to remain in isolation until they have a negative test,” Hunt said.
Currently, there have been no further restrictions announced.
Both variants are associated with a higher viral load, meaning a greater concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, likely contributing to increased transmission.
There have also been suggestions that the variants may cause more severe reactions, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston saying on Jan. 22 that the UK variant may be associated with higher mortality rates.
“We’ve been informed today that in addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant—the variant that was first discovered in London and the southeast [in England]—may be associated with a higher degree of mortality,” Johnston said. Investigations into the new variant are ongoing.
The world’s wealthier countries with existing cold chain infrastructure have started vaccinating their populations to safeguard against a disease that has killed 1.8 million people globally and devastated the global economy.
Current vaccines being trialed include those already being rolled out from AstraZeneca and Oxford, Pfizer, Moderna, and Russia’s Sputnik V.