The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) confirmed today that 2 variants of concern, other than the B.1.351 already dominating in South Africa, have been detected. These are:
B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK)- 11 cases.
B.1.617.2 (first detected in India)- 4 cases.
In addition the B.1.351 (first detected here in South Africa) has been sequenced from a patient traveling from Bangladesh.
“The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in Gauteng (2) and KwaZulu-Natal (2) 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), one was detected in KwaZulu-Natal and two were detected in Gauteng” said Dr Mkhize.
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.
“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”.
Mkhize has emphasized that variants can develop at anytime 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 ad- here 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, said Mkhize”.
Mkhize further said world is still grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, with surges in one territory bound to spillover into other territories. “We are all deeply concerned about the threat of variants of concern and these reports demonstrate that the issue is complicated”.
Dr Mkhize Said 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”.
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