LISTEN: Health Dept confirms new Covid variant in South Africa

LISTEN: Health Dept confirms new Covid variant in South Africa

The Health Department has confirmed that a new Covid-19 variant of concern has been detected in South Africa and seems to be behind a sudden rise of infections in Gauteng and other provinces.


Heath Minister Joe Phaahla says the discovery of the B.1.1.529 variant was made by scientists two days ago from samples taken from Lancet, after a steady rise of infections over a period of eight days.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, from  University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), says the variant has a very high number of mutations with a concern over its predicted immune evasion and transmissibility.

He says the variant has also been detected in Hong Kong and Botswana.

Listen below: 

De Oliveira does not believe the variant originated in South Africa. 

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Richard Lessells said they particularly concerned by the variant’s ability to attack other parts of the immune system. 

“We also see mutations that are well known from other variants of concern and interest and they give us concern that these might give the virus an enhanced ability to spread from person to person and also to potentially get to other parts of the immune system, not just the neutralising antibodies.” 

Oliveira said, unfortunately the health system will feel some pressure in the coming weeks as cases increase.

Phaahla said cabinet and the coronavirus command council will meet over the weekend to look at the impact of this new variant and ways to curb its spread. 


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