Battle of the mutants

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It’s harder than you’d think for a new COVID-19 variant to take off in New Zealand, says Jo Chapman, a senior scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research wastewater testing program. “Variants have to be both fit and good at growing, but also lucky—to find a pathway through the community and get a foothold.” Still, enough of them have made it through that we now have a “variant soup”.

Initially wastewater testing was an early warning system—it told us where COVID-19 was stealthily spreading. Now, it’s an unbiased way of monitoring trends.

The new ESR website lets laypeople take a nosy at the data too, even zooming down to the level of a single street or two. Yes, you can now see what’s in your neighbourhood poo.