Positive cases of the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant, circulating widely in India, have been confirmed in South Africa, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday evening.
The minister said the detection of new variants was inevitable as the pandemic progresses.
“The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) confirmed today that two variants of concern other than the B.1.351 [ known as 501Y.V1] already dominating in South Africa have been detected,” he said.
Eleven cases of the B.1.1.7 – first detected in the UK – and four cases of the B.1.617.2 – first detected in India – were confirmed.
This means South Africa now has three variants circulating.
“In addition the B.1.351 has been sequenced from a patient traveling from Bangladesh. The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in Gauteng (two) and KwaZulu-Natal (two) and all have a history of recent arrival from India.
“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.
“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), while 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,” Mkhize said.
As of today, the total number of confirmed #COVID19 cases is 1 594 817 the total number of deaths is 54 724 the total number of recoveries is 1 514 088 and the total number of vaccines administered is 382 480. pic.twitter.com/Wmw8JTqGdm
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) May 8, 2021
“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 anytime in any country so they do not have to be imported,” he added.
Mkhize continued to say that there was “no need to panic”.
“We are all deeply concerned about the threat of variants of concern and the reports demonstrate that the issue is complicated. Travel restrictions will 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.”
Covid stats update
As of Saturday, the cumulative number of detected Covid-19 cases is 1,594,817 with 2,256 new cases identified.
37 more Covid-19 related deaths were reported, with 0 from Eastern Cape, 2 from Free State, 21 from Gauteng, 7 from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), 0 from Limpopo, 0 from Mpumalanga, 0 from North West, 7 from Northern Cape and 0 from Western Cape.
This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 54,724.
Recoveries now stand at 1,514,088 representing a recovery rate of 95%.
A total of 10,861,611 tests have been completed with 29,873 new tests conducted since the last report.
Meanwhile, the total number of vaccines that have been administered stands at 382,480.