More infectious BA.2.12.1 subvariant detected in NZ community

Source: 1News

A more infectious Covid-19 Omicron subvariant has been detected in the New Zealand community for the first time.

A person getting tested for Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health on Wednesday announced the BA.2.12.1 subvariant was picked up, without a clear link to the border, in a Hawke’s Bay resident.

It was from a test result returned on May 10.

"This Omicron subvariant is prevalent in the USA and has been detected at our border for many weeks - there have been 29 imported cases reported since April, so its movement into the community is not unexpected," the ministry says.

According to The New York Times, BA.2.12.1 is now the dominant subvariant in the US.

"BA.2.12.1 made up about 58 percent of all new US cases, according to estimates by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending May 2," the article states.

It's unclear whether the subvariant is more or less virulent at this stage.

The news comes as there were 8150 new Covid-19 community cases in New Zealand on Wednesday, with 11 deaths including a child under the age of 10 announced.

Meanwhile, the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in wastewater samples at Rosedale on Auckland's North Shore and in Gisborne.

The ministry said the presence of these subvariants in the community is also not unexpected.

Both of these variants are being monitored by the World Health Organization. To date - compared to BA.2 - there is clinical data suggesting they are more transmissible, but no data suggesting they cause more severe illness.