By Kaya 959 News
The National Health Department has confirmed that there are currently four confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 cases in South Africa. However, the department is urging people not to panic.
The variant was first discovered in India and is responsible for thousands of deaths in the last few weeks.
Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has further confirmed that there are 11 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, in the country.
“We reiterate that there is no need for panic, as the fundamentals of the public health response – testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine – have not changed.
We all have a responsibility to adhere to prevention measures – avoiding large gatherings, physical distancing, mask wearing, ventilation and hand sanitation – in order to limit the spread of Covid -19 in South Africa,” Mkhize said.
Cases found in Gauteng, KZN
Mkhize said the department has intensified genomic surveillance to guide them on how to manage the importation of variants of concern.
“Four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in Gauteng and two more in KwaZulu-Natal and all have a history of recent arrival from India,” he said.
Mkhize said all cases have been isolated and managed according to national Covid-19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the spread of this variant.
He said of the 11 cases of B.1.1.7, eight cases were detected in the Western Cape with two having recently travelled from Bahrain.
“One was detected in KZN and two were detected in Gauteng. The B.1.1.7 has been detected in community samples and this therefore suggests that community transmission of B.1.1.7 has already set in,” he said.
SA remains vigilant
Mkhize said as the epidemic progresses, the detection of new variants is inevitable. The work of genomic surveillance assists us to detect the variants and understand their behaviour and to refine vaccines so they remain effective. NGS-SA remains vigilant as it continues to support the Department of Health.
“There are a number of other samples from cases with a history of recent travel into SAthat are currently being sequenced and results are expected over the next few days. It is important to emphasise that variants can develop at anytime in any country so they do not have to be imported,” he said.
Mkhize said the world is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, with surges in one territory bound to spillover into other territories.
“We are all deeply concerned about the threat of variants of concern and these reports demonstrate that the issue is complicated. Travel restrictions will need to be balanced against the scientific realities in order to protect the economy. These findings are urgently being processed by the government and announcements pertaining to travel regulations will be made after all appropriate consultations have been undertaken by Cabinet,” he said.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council is due to meet soon over possible travel restrictions. The date of the meeting has yet to be confirmed.