Covid-19: SA does not have the B.1.617 variant which is prevalent in India - Zweli Mkhize

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Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize
Photo: Lulama Zenzile/Gallo Images/Die Burger
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the B.1.617 variant of the virus that that causes Covid-19 has not been detected in SA.
  • He says there are no direct flights from India and that all ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures.
  • The health department has consulted members of the genomics team, who have intensified their surveillance.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has reassured South Africans that the B.1.617 variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, which is prevalent in India, has not been detected locally.

"We have noted the concerns raised both directly with us and on social media regarding possible importation of the B.1.617 variant circulating in India," he said.

"This is appreciated with the context of knowing that there are several variants of concern (VOCs) circulating around the world. 

"We wish to reassure citizens that there are no direct flights from India and that all our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimise the importation of Covid-19. We are currently on high alert to screen passengers and test those who require further assessment."

READ | Covid-19: Gauteng sounds alarm after 'notable increase' in cases

Mkhize said the health department had consulted members of the genomics team, who intensified their surveillance to ensure that the variant could be detected quickly.

The minister added: "We have not detected the B.1.617 variant as yet in South Africa, however, we have consulted members of the genomics team who have informed us that they have intensified their surveillance, not only to ensure that [the] variant can be detected quickly, but also to understand what the implications are for us in the context of B.1.351 being the dominant variant in South Africa. This work is ongoing and we commit to continue to be guided by science.

"Meanwhile, we have also consulted the Ministerial Advisory Committee to advise us on the approach to [the] management of travellers from countries that have epidemics driven by variants of concern. Their advice will assist us to determine the next steps forward, of which government will announce these determinations in due course. For now, we ask 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."

To date, 10 715 773 Covid-19 tests have been completed.

South Africa recorded 897 new Covid-19 cases by Monday, 3 May and 35 more Covid-19-related deaths, taking the death toll to 54 452.

Two deaths were recorded in the Eastern Cape, six in the Free State, seven in Gauteng, 16 in KwaZulu-Natal, one in Mpumalanga, two in the Northern Cape and one in the Western Cape.

The country has recorded a total of 1 584 961 cases.

The number of healthcare workers vaccinated under the Sisonke protocol is 329 098.

KwaZulu-Natal has recorded the most active cases with 5 344, followed by the Northern Cape with 3 846 and the Free State with 3 644.

The recovery rate stands at 95%, with 1 508 558 recoveries recorded.

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