COVID-19: Science news

Information on the latest science and technical advice on COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has seen high interest in all aspects of the virus from not only the scientific and health community but the general public as well. 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can undergo genetic mutations that occur naturally over time or from other pressures. These are known as variants. Variants are identified through the whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of samples from cases where a nasopharyngeal swab is taken and analysis is carried out by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR).  

On this page:

Wastewater surveillance

To detect which variants are circulating in the community, ESR also carries out wastewater surveillance from samples taken from throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.  

ESR’s COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance Dashboard 

Genomics Insights Report 

The COVID-19 Genomics Insights Dashboard provides a public and high-level overview of viral genomic surveillance across Aotearoa, New Zealand. As SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to adapt, mutate, and spread, ESR reports these trends and insights within these reports as part of the WGS surveillance programme in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

ESR’s COVID-19 Genomics Insights Dashboard  


Variants Updates

Between July 2022 and February 2023, the Ministry published Variant Updates to provide information on variants of the virus that were of interest of concern.  

As the Variant updates are no longer being produced by the Ministry, please refer to ESR’s COVID-19 Genomics Insights report for more information on COVID-19 variants in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The Ministry continues to closely monitor variants as part of our COVID-19 surveillance in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

7 February 2023

24 January 2023

15 December 2022

5 December 2022

21 November 2022

25 October 2022

27 September 2022

19 August 2022

28 July 2022

7 July 2022

Long COVID Evidence Updates

The Science and Technical Advisory and Chief Allied Health Professions Office produce a long COVID evidence brief which informs our ongoing work in the COVID-19 response, and is updated over time. 

COVID-19 Science Updates

30 March 2022: Request for advice about vaccination in children (5–11)

This request for advice (RfA) was developed to support the discussions and formulation of advice for providing access to the COVID-19 vaccines for this age group within Aotearoa New Zealand. These discussions were primarily held by the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV TAG), who subsequently formulated the advice on vaccination. The RfA has been developed by Ministry of Health expert advisors, in conjunction with expert peer-review obtained through the CV TAG review process. 

13 September 2021: Vaccination in pregnancy not associated with miscarriage

Two studies show that the rate of miscarriage is similar for vaccinated and unvaccinated pregnant people, and that there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage during pregnancy

9 July 2021: COVID-19 Pharmaceutical treatments

We present a brief summary of the most notable therapeutics for treating cases of COVID-19 trialled to date. These are categorised by “likely to be beneficial”, “showing promise”, and “unsupported by current evidence”. We also compare and discuss key points of differences between two meta-analyses of available trial data regarding the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 that arrived at conflicting conclusions.’

14 May 2021: Shifting thinking on aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2

The WHO and, more recently, CDC have updated their statements to more clearly accept the role airborne transmission is likely to have in the spread of COVID-19. While the Ministry of Health has long been factoring this likely mode of transmission into its planning and mitigation strategies, this has been based on caution rather than certainty. While certainty still remains somewhat elusive, recent expert summaries (noted within) and the acceptance from peak bodies further strengthens our basis for the continual revision of our mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.

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