South Africa: New Variant of Covid-19 Spreading Rapidly in SA - Scientists and Government Closely Monitoring and Considering Implications

Covid-19 statistics in South Africa, December 20, 2020

Yesterday evening, with much of South Africa having shifted from lockdown to holiday shutdown, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 called an unexpected press conference 'to inform and present to the public new scientific developments and evidence that has been discovered on Covid-19'.

The briefing on Friday, 18 December, was addressed by Mkhize, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande, Prof Tulio de Oliveira (director of KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, or KRISP, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal) and Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, both members of the Consortium of Genomic Scientists.

It focused on Mkhize's announcement that "a variant 501.v2 has been identified here", which has now been sequenced at various clinics.

Abdool-Karim, who co-chairs the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, revealed that they were confident that the second wave could be ascribed to this new variant which appears to be more potent and transmissible, although it is unclear whether it will cause higher mortality rates or more severe illness.

He said he was confident the vaccines in development would be effective in controlling this strain, while Mkhize assured that he had signed the guarantees for South Africa to procure its vaccines...

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