Thursday, December 9

Scientists rush to find source of Covid-19 community case


Genomic tests are already underway to find links between the new case and others.

Scientists are working hard to find the source of this latest community case of Covid-19.

The machine sorts Covid-19 positive samples for genome testing.

Genome testing is ongoing at ESR.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

ESR, New Zealand’s Crown Research Institute, is looking for possible links to managed isolate or other sources through genome sequencing.

Joep de Ligt, ESR Leader for Genomics, said Control the organization was working frantically to identify any links.

“What we do is that whenever there is a sample like this in the community we try to process it as urgently as possible,” he said. “And as we saw in February, that means we can usually reverse it well in 24 hours.

“When the notifications came, that’s when all the wheels started turning.”

The government has a database of previous cases seen on MIQ, and will compare the new community case with those to see if there are any links.

“But as we’ve seen in certain previous cases, a link is not always found. That could be because that case might not have been detected or the viral load was so low that we couldn’t get a genome from it.”

Genomic tests can determine how many people are between one infection and the next by how many differences they see in the genome, which is about 30,000 letters long.

“Each of those letters can change randomly because the virus makes mistakes when it copies itself. So we looked at it to tell us a bit about how it relates to other cases.”

“The point is that with Covid it does not always change, so sometimes there are genomes that we cannot distinguish. But that indicates that these cases are more closely linked than if there are a series of mutations between them.”

As a result of these new community cases, genome sequencing will increase, but ESR is primed for that with multiple sites and the ability to work within locks.

“Even if there are more cases, we can deal with that,” de Ligt said.

De Ligt is hopeful that the evidence will determine where this new case came from.

“Since this case is recent, we hope to get a good genome.”

ESR has been involved in sequencing the Covid-19 genome since the pandemic began last year.

One hundred percent of the cases in MIQ during the last three weeks were the Delta variant, according to a government report.

“Almost everything we see is exclusively Delta, especially in recent weeks,” de Ligt said.

“This is a reflection that Delta is competing with previous versions of the virus globally.

“If we look at Europe and other places where travelers come from, it is almost exclusively Delta that we are seeing there, and we also see that reflected in our travelers and in the MIQ system and even on the ships.”

This is an official COVID-19 ALERT.

As of 11:59 p.m. tonight on August 17, ALL OF NEW ZEALAND goes to alert level 4 for COVID-19.

The alert level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, which will likely remain at level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

A community case of COVID-19 has been identified.

STAY HOME whenever possible and follow Level 4 Alert guidelines. This will stop the spread of COVID-19 and SAVE LIVES.

All are asked to:
Wear a mask and keep a distance of 2 meters from others when leaving your home
If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on getting tested.
Keep scanning QR codes every time you leave home
Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often.

Services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics and gas stations will remain open at alert level 4.

For more information on Alert Level 4, go to www.covid19.govt.nz.

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Kia Kaha – Stay strong


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