NZ reports 1st case of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1

In this photo taken on March 9, 2021, Denise Fogasavaii, left, receives a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Auckland, New Zealand. (PHOTO / AP)

CANBERRA / BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN / NEW DELHI / WELLINGTON – New Zealand reported its first case of the Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in a community case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, without a clear link to the border.

New Zealand recorded 8,150 new community cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths on Wednesday

The case was found in Hawke's Bay from a test result returned on May 10, said the Ministry of Health.

This Omicron subvariant is prevalent in the United States and has been detected at the border for many weeks — there have been 29 imported cases of its kind reported since April, so its movement into the community is not unexpected, said a ministry statement.

Emerging data suggests BA.2.12.1 is marginally more transmissible than the subvariants currently circulating in New Zealand. The genomic surveillance (genomes and wastewater) remains in place to study any new variants and track their spread, it said.

Previously, New Zealand also detected the Omicron BA.4 and/or BA.5 subvariants in the community.

New Zealand recorded 8,150 new community cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths on Wednesday. Among the new community infections, 2,617 were reported in the largest city Auckland, the ministry said.

In addition, 78 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the New Zealand border.

Currently, 368 COVID-19 patients are being treated in New Zealand hospitals, including 11 in intensive care units or high dependency units.

New Zealand has reported 1,117,307 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the country. 

A medical worker collects a swab sample at a drive-through COVID-19 testing station in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug 19, 2021. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)


A leading infectious diseases expert has called for the influenza vaccine to be made free for all Australians to prevent a looming health "disaster".

Ian Barr, deputy director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, said recently governments should entirely subsidize flu vaccinations to help emphasize their importance.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 7,020,862 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Australia, including 8,178 deaths, and approximately 353,415 active cases, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health

According to data from the federal Health Department, about 5.9 million people aged five and older, or 24 percent of the population, and 151,189 Australians younger than five had received a flu vaccine as of Sunday.

The low figures come despite governments and health authorities across the country urging as many people as possible to get vaccinated to protect the health system ahead of a projected winter spike in flu and COVID-19 cases.

"The COVID-19 vaccination has set the precedent. It sends a message the government thinks it's a priority," Barr told the Guardian Australia.

"There's a two-year gap when we haven't been exposed, and we know immunity wanes especially if you're not vaccinated.

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"What we don't normally see is quite so many kids in hospital but a lot of this is due to high numbers. There'll be deaths for sure, and no doubt increased pressure on hospitals."

Up until May 8 there had been 10,599 confirmed influenza cases in Australia compared to fewer than 1,000 in 2021 amid coronavirus restrictions and border closures.

In the Central Australia region of the Northern Territory, 36 percent of confirmed flu cases in 2022 have been hospitalized for treatment, prompting concerns of a severe season.

"This is the first full flu season for three years while our hospitals are already full," Australian Medical Association Vice-President Chris Moy said.

"It's quite a scary prospect. We should be thinking about this from a disaster perspective."

As of Tuesday afternoon, 7,020,862 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Australia, including 8,178 deaths, and approximately 353,415 active cases, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.

The number of new cases reported in the previous 24 hours stood at 43,090. 


The Brunei government on Tuesday said its Early Endemic Phase will end on May 31, and the guidelines for COVID-19 control measures will be updated beginning in June.

As part of Brunei's National COVID-19 Recovery Framework, the country moved to the Early Endemic Phase in December last year, when local infections gradually dropped after the country imposed the strictest social distancing measures, including work from home and a curfew.

According to Brunei's COVID-19 Steering Committee, some existing COVID-19 guidelines will be updated beginning June 1, when there will be no limitation on the capacity of mass gatherings at home or in the halls.

All sporting activities including competitions or matches are allowed without limitation on the number of spectators. Food preparation for any event including buffet meals at any premises is allowed.

There will be no age restriction for all congregations at mosques to perform religious activities, and face masks should be worn in public buildings, as well as in crowded places outdoors.

These move was made considering the stable COVID-19 situation, high vaccination rates, and low bed occupancy rates at isolation centers in the country, the committee said.

"To this end, we are able to return to our daily lives by adapting to the new normal," the committee added, saying the government is monitoring and reviewing requirements for reducing other restrictions including code scans and opening of borders.

"The outcome of these evaluations, subject to the current situation, will be announced to the public at a later date," the committee said.

Brunei reported 246 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the national tally to 147,021. As of Monday, 69.7 percent of Brunei's population have received three doses of vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and China's Sinopharm are administered in Brunei. Currently, 1,633 active cases are being treated and monitored in Brunei, with 145,166 recoveries. 

People wait in a queue to interact with their relatives through a video phone facility set up by a COVID- 19 help desk outside a hospital, in New Delhi, India, July 3, 2020. (MANISH SWARUP/AP)


India's COVID-19 tally rose to 43,142,192 on Wednesday with 2,124 new cases registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry's latest data.

Besides, 17 deaths from the pandemic registered across the country since Monday morning took the total death toll to 524,507.

There are still 14,971 active COVID-19 cases in the country, an increase of 130 during the past 24 hours.

So far, 42,602,714 people have been successfully cured and discharged from hospitals, including 1,977 discharged during the past 24 hours. 

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reported no new deaths among fever patients for a second consecutive day, state media KCNA said on Wednesday, a day after it said the country's first confirmed coronavirus outbreak was being stably managed.

Pyongyang said on Tuesday its anti-virus campaign was having "successes" in curbing and controlling the outbreak and "maintaining the clearly stable situation."

The Republic of Korea

The Republic of Korea reported 23,956 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Tuesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 18,017,923, the health authorities said Wednesday.

The daily caseload was down from 26,344 in the previous day, lower than 31,342 tallied a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

The health authorities believed that the daily caseload has been on the decline following the Omicron variant-driven resurgence, which may have peaked in the middle of March.

Among the new cases, 21 were imported from overseas, lifting the total to 32,587.

The number of infected people who were in a serious condition stood at 237, up five from the previous day.

A total of 23 more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 24,029. The total fatality rate was 0.13 percent.

The number of people who received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines was 44,571,263, or 86.9 percent of the total population, and the figure for those getting booster jabs was 33,272,841, or 64.8 percent of the population.