Coronavirus: Public health experts call for calm over new UK COVID-19 variant

Several of New Zealand's top public health experts are calling for calm over the newly detected variants of COVID-19, and are warning the Government against making any rash decisions.

It comes as the National Party suggests that if we don't outright ban arrivals from the United Kingdom and the United States, we should at least separate managed isolation facilities into low-risk and high-risk countries.

Since the UK's new, more infectious variant has been detected, hospitals there are now struggling with a surge in cases.

"So I don't know how much more we can do before it gets to, like, literally there's no more room, there's no more beds, there's no more nurses, there's no more space, there's no more, or anything. So, yeah, I'm quite apprehensive," Cassandra George of Croydon University Hospital's intensive care unit says.

Our Government is also being apprehensive now that it's requiring people returning from the US and UK to test negative before they leave - a National Party policy that was previously dismissed by officials.

"That's been our policy since August. I'm glad the Government's picking up on it, it's just a bit of a shame they rubbished it for so long," Chris Bishop says.

Some health experts are cautioning against going any further though, saying there's not enough data.

"There are so few countries that are doing any sequencing at all. It's likely more infectious variants are present across the world and not just in the countries where they've been detected," McAuley Professor of International Health Philip Hill says.

The National Party wants arrivals separated into high and low-risk isolation hotels.

"Dedicated staff to work in these high-risk hotels, for want of a better phrase, is the smart thing to do and we think it is possible to do that," Bishop says.

The new strain is not yet flooding our isolation facilities. Of the seven cases detected in the past two days, none came from the UK and only two from the US.

But the variant is flooding hospitals in the UK - and cemeteries.

Workers burying COVID-19 victims are wearing full PPE, highlighting how important it is to keep this new variant out.