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A year of Covid-19 in SA: Second wave caught us by surprise – Mkhize

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Speaking during a ceremony marking one year since the country’s first confirmed case, Dr Zweli Mkhize said scientific models did not show that the second wave of infections would come sooner, or that it would happen as severely as it did

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday to mark the first anniversary of the country’s first confirmed Covid-19 case in SA. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

DURBAN – Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize admits the government was taken by surprise when the second wave hit.

Speaking during a ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal where the country’s first Covid-19 case was identified on March 5 last year, Mkhize said scientific models did not show that the second wave of infections would come sooner, or that it would happen as severely as it did.

He said models did not show that there would be a new variant.

The variant, dubbed 501Y.V2 late last year fuelled the country’s second wave of infections and effectively put a damper on the country’s vaccine roll-out plans.

Meanwhile, this week, KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform’s (Krisp) Professor Tulio de Oliveira said people infected by the new variant have immunity against the variant and other lineages.

According to Mkhize, this new variant has changed the whole approach that we adopted to dealing with Covid.

Mkhize said the emergence of the 501Y.V2 variant placed South Africa in a unique position to help other countries with ongoing research.

“We can use our research to help build and create the next generation of vaccines to deal with local and international variants. We may have an advantage to help on how to take vaccine development forward,” he said.

Both Mkhize and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala heaped praise on health-care workers for all their efforts during the country’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mkhize gave insight into the challenges and lessons learnt over the past 12 months and commended doctors, nurses and front-line workers for their sacrifices.

Commenting on the implementation of the lockdown, Mkhize said it was one of the most painful that had to be made in order to save lives.

“It was inconvenient and we thank South Africans for co-operating.

“We must continue to wear a mask, wash our hands and keep a safe social distance.

“The fight is not over but we have hope,” he said.

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