New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, on February 15, said that genomic sequencing of two recent COVID-19 cases showed that they were the variant B117. Three local COVID-19 cases were detected in Auckland last week, prompting authorities to impose an immediate lockdown. Defending the “hard and fast” measures, Ardern stressed that it was the right decision.
“We were absolutely right to make the decision to be extra cautious because we assumed it was going to be one of the more transmissible variants,” Ardern said in a Facebook Live post on Monday, February 14.
Meanwhile, in a statement later, the country’s health ministry said that no results have been found yet from the sequencing of a third case linked to the Auckland cluster. However, it further backed Ardern’s decision to take “swift and robust” action to prevent any further transmissions. The B117 variant, which emerged in the UK in late December, has already spread to over 60 countries but it was the first time that the mutation was found in the kiwi state.
The Ardern administration has received global accolades for its control of the COVID-19 infection. The country has reported merely 25 deaths despite being home to five million people. The caseload of infections stands at 2,330. Ardern, who is currently serving her second term as the country’s leader, has encouraged strict and levelled lockdowns to curb the spread of the catastrophic infection.
Meanwhile, British scientists have said that the new variant of the COVID-19 virus is likely linked to the increased hospitalisation and higher mortality rate. In a new study, British government scientists have supported the earlier theory that the new variant is not just highly contagious but also more lethal, contributing to increased deaths in the country. Scientists had earlier said there is a "realistic possibility" the new variant may be contributing to increased deaths, now they say it is "likely" it is causing more deaths than all other previous mutations of the virus.