New Zealand health authorities have confirmed crew members of a container ship off Mooloolaba tested positive to a strain of coronavirus which had not been detected elsewhere.

Two men had to be taken off the ship and to Sunshine Coast University Hospital for treatment, while other testing was carried out on-board.

It was originally reported that the strain of COVID-19 had not been detected anywhere before, which was confirmed by New Zealand Health.

The container ship, MS Sofrana Surville, was anchored off Mooloolaba while the testing process was undertaken.

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A New Zealand Health spokeswoman said the testing results were "not closely related to any internationally reported genomes to date".

"This indicates that this case most likely originated from areas where limited sequencing is being undertaken," the spokeswoman said.

"The whole genome sequence identified in one of the seafarers is one mutation earlier than the Maritime company cases, suggesting that the border company cases were infected by the seafarers who joined the Sofrana Surville in Auckland.

"When combined with geographic, movement and contact information, genome sequencing of COVID-19 cases helps to reveal pathways of viral spread, including from the global population, domestically and at the community level.

"We can do this because viruses change slightly over time and between people.

"You might have heard about different lineages of the virus, these are just small changes in a specific region of the genome of the virus.

"By collaborating with others around the world also sequencing, we are able to build a picture of all these changes to give us clues about where particular cases fall in the genomic family tree."

Queensland Health say there have been no further cases of COVID-19 on the ship since the infected crew members were taken to hospital.

"The remaining crew are in quarantine aboard the container ship. Additional testing of this group has returned negative," a Queensland Health spokeswoman said.

"There is no risk to any community in Queensland. All health staff who have come into contact with the two confirmed cases have taken every precaution and are wearing full PPE."


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