Concern Over New COVID-19 Variants but SA on Top of the Situation – Mkhize

By Oliver Ngwenya    05-May-2021 20:00 UTC+02:00

While there may be concerns over new Covid-19 variants, we are prepared – Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize. Photo: RODGER BOSCH/AFP

South Africa has been placed on high alert as a way of managing the emerging Covid-19 variants that have been appearing the world over. This was announced by the South African Minister of Health, Doctor Zweli Mkhize when he made a statement on Tuesday evening.

Dr. Mkhize said that there was concern surrounding the several variants that had come up around the world. Chief among these variants is the Indian variant which has been labeled B.1.617 variant, circulating widely in India and South Asia. Dr. Mkhize, however, said that this variant had not been detected in South Africa. He added that the country had been placed on high alert because of the likelihood of the importation of these deadly variants, adding that the most dominant variant in South Africa, the 501Y.V2. or B1.351, had been found in a sample taken off a traveler from India.

The Health Minister said that while they were still being guided by the advice of the World Health Organisation on how to manage the variants, that is, prevention by adhering to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), early detection, contact tracing, and testing and quarantine or isolation, they were in the process of talking to scientific advisors on how these variants could be individually managed so that their impact on the South African public can be mitigated. Consequently, he said that the government would be announcing the steps to follow, adding that further information would be made public on the state of the variants and what steps would be taken in order to reduce the impact of the importation on the general public.

Mkhize further concedes that the area of variants was a sensitive one, calling it a ‘difficult area’ during these times of the Covid-19 pandemic. He further warned that it had the potential to “drive exclusion, mistrust and sometimes even racist rhetoric.” In closing, Dr. Mkhize assured the nation with these words: “We share our people’s concerns but wish to reassure South Africans that we are a very capable nation that knows how to deal with the burden of a variant of concern. Our teams remain on high alert to survey, detect and contain the spread of Covid-19 in general, with the heightened awareness of travelers from countries where variants of concern (VOCs) are dominating.”

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