The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed the presence of a new variant of Covid-19 in the country. A total of 22 positive cases infected with the new B.1.1.529 strain has been confirmed via genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories.
Professor Adrian Puren, Acting Executive Director of the NICD, said on the variant's discovery: "It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa. Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date."
The NICD has noted an increase in Covid-19 case detection and positive test results in the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and the North West. Dr Michelle Groome, Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD, has stressed that despite the emergence of new Covid-19 variants, the public should remain responsible and the importance of preventative, non-pharmaceutical interventions remain unchanged. This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant," Groome said.