LIVE : “No need for alarm” over new Covid variant

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: RNZ.

While there are no cases in New Zealand of the Covid-19 variant currently causing concern in South Africa, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson says it is a strong reminder that the global pandemic is far from over.

Robertson and Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay have held today's media briefing.

Speaking about the new variant, Robertson says he confirmed with ESR that no variant of that nature had come into New Zealand.

"But it's a good example of why we need to be cautious, there's no need at this point to be alarmed about it from New Zealand's perspective, but it does point out that the global pandemic is still ongoing and New Zealand's response needs to be careful, methodical and cautious."

He noted that the World Health Organisation is meeting overnight and there is still some debate about transmissibility of this variant.

Dr McElnay says New Zealand is watching the situation closely, and genome sequencing on each case that came in across the border would be picked up.

Robertson says they have not had any advice to consider a travel ban on South Africa, but New Zealand does have a high risk country list and will take advice on it.

Dr McElnay reiterated the importance of vaccinations.

She says the Covid vaccination keeps people out of hospital and keeps them from dying.

She referenced a British Medical Journal Study based on research carried out in Scotland.

“The research shows that the Pfizer vaccine was 90 per cent effective from preventing death from Covid-19, where most infections were caused by the Delta variant.”

She urged people if they are eligible for vaccination to do it now.

More than two million people have their My Vaccine Pass, says Dr McElnay.

The Ministry of Health is introducing new ways to get the pass, people can have theirs sent to the in the mail or go to one of 400 pharmacies to get it. The list of pharmacies is available on the Health Point website.

Robertson says the eighth round of wage subsidy opened this morning, including some of the time period for when the country is no longer in the alert level system, but payments will still go out.

By midday today 13 DHBs have now hit the 90 per cent first dose milestone, says Robertson. New Zealand's overall first dose rate now sits at 92 percent, he says.

Just 2293 more first doses need to be given out for the Bay of Plenty DHB area to reach the 90 per cent first dose milestone.

Today bookings open for booster shots of Pfizer for those who completed their courses at least six months ago, says Robertson. From today bookings are also available for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Additional reporting RNZ.

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