Over 300,000 new Covid-19 cases are being reported daily in India, with thousands of deaths, largely driven by the B.1.617 variant.
Despite an adverse impact on tourism, South Africa could soon be limiting flights from India, enforcing compulsory testing and quarantining travellers, among measures in response to the B.1.617 Covid-19 variant, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) warned on Tuesday.
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With India having become the global pandemic epicentre, over 300,000 new Covid-19 cases are being reported daily, with thousands of deaths, largely driven by the B.1.617 variant.
While Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has called for calm, the health department and local scientific research entities have been on high alert after a patient who recently travelled from India to SA tested positive for Covid-19.
NICD acting executive director, Professor Adrian Puren, said he expected government to make an announcement on how best to manage the risk.
“We have identified a potential case and we have the necessary tools for surveillance… and systems for tracing contacts, testing and quarantining are in place.
“Nevertheless, we should be vigilant and encourage communities to adhere to the interventions that prevent the spread – such as wearing of masks correctly, physical distancing, avoiding crowded and unventilated areas.”
Puren added that the variant initially identified in India was regarded as “a variant of concern”, which harbours mutations linked to increased transmissibility and evasion of the immune system.
“It certainly has been associated with the significant increase in cases in India. But it is not always easy when there are other factors that could explain the second wave in India,” said Puren.
Dr Nathi Mdladla, associate professor and chief of intensive care unit at the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital, said: “Putting restrictions on travelling to and from India should be a priority until their current wave abates.”