25 Sep 2023

Covid-19 update: 2998 new cases, 18 deaths attributed to virus

3:26 pm on 25 September 2023
Collage of nurse and emergency room sign

Photo: 123rf.com - RNZ / Composite Image - RNZ

There have been 2998 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week, and 18 further deaths attributed to the virus.

Of the new cases, 1288 were reinfections.

At midnight Sunday 24 September there were 175 cases in hospital with three in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases was 426.

Last week Te Whatu Ora reported 3095 new cases and 20 further deaths.

For the first time, Covid-19 subvariant BA.2.86 has been detected in New Zealand.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) found traces of it in wastewater samples taken earlier in September.

As of 21 September, no one hospitalised with Covid-19 was known to have the subvariant BA.2.86, also known as Pirola, which was first detected in late July in Denmark and Israel. It has also been detected in Switzerland, South Africa, US and UK.

Early evidence shows the Covid-19 vaccines available in New Zealand are effective against BA.2.86.

The World Health Organisation, which has announced BA.2.86 is a "variant under monitoring" (its lowest level of concern until more is known), says so far there is no evidence that it spreads faster or causes more severe illness.

Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health and ESR are monitoring this and other subvariants closely.

But microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles was warning that new vaccines against this variant of Covid-19 might not be available in New Zealand until next year.

Wiles said the virus mutated quickly, and the government should be vaccinating people against BA.2.86 as soon as possible.

"My understanding here is that Pharmac are asking for data from the vaccine manufacturers, but not until later this year, and it won't be looked at until sometime next year."

But she said the updated vaccines may no longer be fit for purpose by the time they arrived in the country.

"I imagine that they're probably just thinking about vaccine updates in time for our next winter," she said.

In a statement, Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said it was seeking advice from its Immunisation Advisory Committee in November and working with health system partners within the new immunisation governance structure before making a decision about the Covid-19 vaccine for 2024.

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