New Covid-19 variant: Still too early to decide on 'line of action', says Phaahla

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SA is grappling with a new Covid-19 variant.
SA is grappling with a new Covid-19 variant.
Rehman Asad/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • A new Covid-19 variant has been detected in the country. 
  • The variant was detected in Gauteng, but scientist believe it could be present in other provinces. 
  • Government has not yet decided on possible restrictions. 


Health Minister Joe Phaahla has revealed that it is too early to make a decision on possible restrictions, following the detection of a new Covid-19 variant which is believed to have a high number of mutations.

The new variant was detected in Gauteng, and scientists believe it may also be present in other provinces.

Phaahla, as well as Professors Tulio de Oliveira and Richard Lascelles, confirmed the detection of variant B.1.1.529 during an "urgent" briefing on Thursday afternoon.

The variant will be given a Greek name by the World Health Organisation.

Phaahla said they had only received a warning about the new variant on Wednesday.

READ | Covid-19: Scientists monitoring new virus variant detected in SA, Botswana

"We got the report and we have been doing further consultations during the day. So, there has been no time to really reflect on possible decisions. We did not want this [new variant] to linger as a rumour; we wanted it to[be] confirmed," Phaahla said.

"We are still going to have various discussions at various forums, including the Coronavirus Council, including Cabinet, [and] consultation with premiers. It is too early to predict what is going to be the line of action.

"But from the experience of last 21 months, we can almost predict how this is going to move," he said, adding that as people started to move around more over the next coming days, the virus will spread.

Phaahla also said that if more people were vaccinated, the country would be able to limit the number of mutations.

He added that the spike in Covid-19 infections was initially thought to be due to the Delta variant, but the emergence of the new variant "reinforces the fact that this invisible enemy we are dealing with is very unpredictable".

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