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UK Covid variant enters New Zealand - in isolation

There have been 19 new cases reported in New Zealand's managed isolation facilities over the past three days, including six cases of the recently identified UK variant.

In its first release of numbers in 2021, the Health Ministry said in a statement that the total number of active cases is 72.

The Ministry also confirmed that the new cases included six which matched the UK variant of Covid-19 known as 20B/501Y.V1 (Lineage B.1.1.7).

"The six cases, five of whom travelled from the United Kingdom and one who travelled from South Africa, arrived into New Zealand between 13 and 25 December and underwent routine testing in managed isolation as part of routine surveillance testing or because they developed symptoms. Once confirmed positive they were transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

"Four of these cases are now recovered and, after a final health check, were able to leave the facility."

The Ministry said the cases were all cared for with the same high level of infection prevention measures as all Covid-19 positive cases.

"The UK variant is more transmissible than other variants of the virus but there is no evidence at this stage that the length of the infection period is any different to any other variant of Covid-19, nor is it more likely to produce severe illness."

The 19 new cases include:

One case arrived on 20 December from India via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. One case arrived on 23 December from the United Kingdom via Singapore. One case arrived on 24 Dec from India via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. One case arrived 27 December from United Kingdom via United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. One case arrived on 28 December from the United States. One case arrived 29 December from United Kingdom via United Arab Emirates. One case arrived 29 December from United Kingdom via United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. One case arrived 29 December from the United Kingdom. One case arrived 29 December from Denmark via United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. Two cases, travelling together, arrived on 29 December from the United Kingdom via Qatar. Four cases, travelling separately, arrived on 29 December from the United Kingdom via United Arab Emirates. One case arrived on 29 December from the Seychelles via United Arab Emirates. One case arrived on 29 December from South Africa via Singapore. One case arrived on 31 December from the United States. One is historical. This person arrived on 19 December from the United States via Australia.

There were 11 new cases in managed isolation reported on Thursday, the last update before today.

The Ministry's next update will be on Tuesday.

See RNZ's full coverage of Covid-19

If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

See all RNZ Covid-19 news Covid-19 symptoms: What they are and how they make you feel How to wear a mask Touching your Face: Why do we do it and how to stop Scientific hand-washing advice to avoid infection A timeline: How the coronavirus started, spread and stalled life in New Zealand Coronavirus: A glossary of terms