The Department of Health confirmed that four people in South Africa have tested positive for the Covid-19 variant found in India.
THE DEPARTMENT of Health has confirmed that four people in South Africa have tested positive for the Covid-19 variant found in India.
The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) confirmed on Saturday that the four cases of B.1.617.2 were detected in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Each province reported two cases cases and all have a history of recent arrivals from India, the department said in a statement.
The department 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.
They also noted that there were 11 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the UK, found in South Africa.
Of the eleven cases of B.1.1.7, eight were detected in the Western Cape (with two having a history of travel from Bahrain), one was detected in KwaZulu-Natal and two were detected in Gauteng.
The department said the B.1.1.7 variant has been detected in community samples and this therefore suggests that community transmission of B.1.1.7 has already set in.
Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said that 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 South Africa that are currently being sequenced and results are expected over the next few days.
“It is important to emphasise that variants can develop at any time in any country so they do not have to be imported.
“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.”
Mhkize said the world was still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, with surges in one territory bound to spill over into other territories.
“We are all deeply concerned about the threat of variants of concern and these reports demonstrate that the issue is complicated.”
Mkhize said travel restrictions would need be balanced against the scientific realities in order to protect the economy.
“These findings are urgently being processed by government and announcements pertaining to travel regulations will be made after all appropriate consultations have been undertaken by Cabinet.”
A further 2,191 new infections had been recorded, with 37 deaths, on Saturday.
SA’s recovery rate remains firm at 95%.