South Africa on high alert for B.1.617 Coronavirus variant

Government has consulted members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee to advise on the approach to managing travellers from countries that have variants of concern.

Devdiscourse News Desk | Pretoria | Updated: 04-05-2021 15:32 IST | Created: 04-05-2021 15:32 IST
South Africa on high alert for B.1.617 Coronavirus variant
“We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the healthcare workers who treated the deceased patients,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Image Credit: Twitter(@SAgovnews)

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has assured the public that South Africa is on high alert for the B.1.617 Coronavirus variant.

"All our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimise the importation of COVID-19," he said, adding that the government remained on high alert to screen passengers and test those who require further assessment.

He said while the variant was yet to be detected in South Africa, members of the genomics team had informed the government that they had intensified surveillance to not only ensure detection of the virus but to also understand its implications.

This comes as India has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases attributed in part to the circulation of different variants, including the B.1.617 Coronavirus variant.

The Minister said there were currently no direct flights from India.

Government has consulted members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee to advise on the approach to managing travellers from countries that have variants of concern.

"Their advice will assist us to determine the next steps forward, of which government will announce in due course," he said.

He called for calm to prevail "as we continue to adhere to the health protocols, tighten containment measures at our ports of entry and keep a balance as we maintain economic activity".

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has also confirmed that the B.1.617 Coronavirus variant has not been detected in South Africa.

"The institution has tremendous empathy for the dire situation that is unfolding in India and would like to reassure the South African public that we are keeping a close eye on developments," says Prof Adrian Puren, the NICD's Acting Executive Director.

Michelle Groome, Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD said testing of COVID-19 positive samples from travellers entering South Africa from India and their close contacts will be prioritised.

"This will enable us to detect the B.1.617 and any other variants in a timely manner."

The institute said the mutation of viruses is a natural occurrence in the lifecycle of any virus, evident with the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 lineage in South Africa in October 2020.

"Although viral mutations are unavoidable, adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions have proven to greatly lessen the transmission of the disease.

"South Africans are reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands with soap and water or to use hand sanitiser, and to keep a physical distance of at least 1.5 m from others. Social activities and small gatherings should take place outdoors, if possible, or in well-ventilated areas with open windows and doors, as proper ventilation plays an important role in reducing the spread," Puren said.

Meanwhile, South Africa's COVID-19 statistics on Monday rose to 1 584 961, after 897 new infections were recorded.

"The number of tests conducted to date is 10 715 773. Of these, 16 752 tests were conducted since the last report," the Health Ministry said.

In the last 24 hours, 35 COVID-19-related deaths were reported. Of these, two were in the Eastern Cape, six in the Free State, seven in Gauteng, 16 in KwaZulu-Natal, one in Mpumalanga, two in Northern Cape and one in Western Cape. This brought the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country to 54 452.

"We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the healthcare workers who treated the deceased patients," said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Recoveries stood at 1 508 558, representing a 95% rate.

Regarding the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, Mkhize said the number of vaccinated healthcare workers remained at 329 098 under the Sisonke Protocol.

(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Blockchain in Healthcare: Opportunities and challenges

The use of blockchain in healthcare is a relatively new innovation with many of its uses still being explored and related technologies being developed, improved, and scaled. ...

Debate surrounding vaccine passports and development misses bigger picture

... ...

Blockchain vs IOTA: Looking for a better alternative

... ...

For stability, Iraq needs to crack down on corruption

... ...

Videos

Latest News

Cyclone Tauktae: Gujarat's coastal areas plunge into darkness

Towns and villages plunged into darkness due to power outages and several trees and electric poles were uprooted in areas near Gujarats coast as cyclone Tauktae began making a landfall on Monday night, bringing along with it very strong win...

UN: 38,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza

The United Nations says over 38,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes and more than 2,500 people have been made homeless because their houses were destroyed.UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday those displ...

Guj: Night curfew to continue in 36 cities for another 3 days

The night curfew in 36 cities of Gujarat, including nine metros, has been extended by three more days to control the spread of coronavirus, the state government said on Monday.As per the decision taken by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, the li...

California won't lift its mask requirement for another month

California wont lift its mask requirement until June 15 to give the public time to prepare and ensure cases stay low.State Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday that a four-week delay will allow businesses time to make adjustments and ...

Give Feedback