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SA identifies new COVID-19 variant

SA Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize


Dec. 19, 2020 3 min read

3 min read


THE Republic of South Africa has identified a new variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in the Eastern Cape and is now circulating wide.

Reports show that the new variant has three mutations which is an unusually high number for a new variant and is said to be able to bind more easily to the receptor in the human body.

They further suggest that the current second wave that SA is experiencing is being driven by this new variant.

According to the SA Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize, a genomics team, led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) has sequenced hundreds of samples from across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March. The minister said the team noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the past two months.

Dr Mkhize said there is no evidence to suggest a need to change in clinical treatment and patient management of COVID-19 in the second wave to date and that this discovery does not necessitate additional restrictive measures.

It is stated that in explaining the findings, Professor Salim Abdool Karim said the second wave is showing some early signs that it is spreading faster than the first wave adding that it has increased viral loads in the body.

“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests that the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave. It is not clear if the second wave has more or less deaths, in other words, the severity is still very unclear. We would expect it to be a less severe virus, but we do not have clear evidence at this point. We have not seen any red flags looking at our current death information.

 


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“We had all of these different strains routinely spreading in South Africa during our first wave and subsequently, what became quite different that we did not expect is the rapid way in which this variant has become dominant in South Africa', he added.

It has however been indicated that there are many issues that need to be investigated and while this mutation is a cause for concern, there is no reason to panic.

The revelation comes as large numbers of Basotho working and staying in SA are coming home each day for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Despite a ray of hope brought about by discovery of COVID-19 vaccine, the rest of the world continues to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other countries are going into a second strict lockdown.

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