The Health Minister of South Africa Zweli Mkhize has said that a new strain of the novel corona virus has been identified which was spreading faster, driving the second wave of the pandemic the country was going through. He said people should be concerned about this new variant of the virus, but there was no reason to panic.
As South Africans, headed towards holiday destinations or their ancestral rural homes; for the festive season, the minister said there was concern that the novel corona virus was affecting many young people; and those with no comorbidities, who were among those least at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
Mkhize told to the reporters that “We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus currently termed 501.V2 Variant has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa. The evidence that has been collated strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant.”
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced more stringent measures; in some coastal provinces, including the closure of the beaches which normally thousands of holidaymakers would pack out, as daily infections; rose exponentially in the past week were over 9,000 new cases and 184 deaths reported due to COVID-19.
The head of the government’s Corona Virus Command Council, Prof Salim Abdool Karim said, “I am afraid we do not have good news for you. Our second wave is now well; and truly on the rise in all our nine provinces.” He said it was too early; to tell if the new strain was more severe than the first or whether it was re-infecting people; who got infected in the first wave.
Prof Karim said, “We have two laboratories which are already growing; the virus and we will start doing studies the answer that question. Once we have grown the virus, we will add in convalescence serum from those patients who recovered; from the virus in the first wave to see whether it neutralises the virus.” He added that studies; were currently underway; to see whether the vaccines that; have been developed would be effective against the new strain.
Mkhize said, “Importantly, the same diagnostic tests, same strategies, and the; same treatments work against this variant.” He added that another area of concern was; that there would be a jump in cases when people return from their holidays in January.
Mkhize called on the media and the public not to spread disinformation; about the new variant of the virus because the clinical treatment would be the same. The health minister confirmed that there would be no additional restrictions to those already announced by Ramaphosa.