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S/Africa detects new Covid-19 variants from India, Europe – Experts

South President Cyril Ramaphosa is unlikely to immediately tighten the coronavirus lockdown regulations despite mounting concerns of a third wave…

South President Cyril Ramaphosa is unlikely to immediately tighten the coronavirus lockdown regulations despite mounting concerns of a third wave following the discovery of variants from India and Europe in the country, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Monday.Despite this development, Mkhize said Ramaphosa would communicate his views at an appropriate time if the country needed to impose new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

“I think at the right time, whenever it becomes necessary, the president will take the decision to address the nation,” the minister said.

He added: “All we have to do is make sure that there are adequate considerations put into various issues that are needed to contain the spread of the virus so that we are able to answer or respond to all the things that we are seeing.”

According to experts from the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), four of the specimens in their possession were confirmed to have tested positive for the Covid-19 B.1.617.2 variant which is killing thousands of people in India daily.

The NICD said it had sequenced the Covid-19 specimens from individuals who had travelled to India and returned to South Africa.

“The institute can confirm that four of the specimens tested positive for B.1.617.2 (two cases from Gauteng province and two from KwaZulu-Natal province),” the NICD said in a statement. 

“It is not surprising that new variants have been detected in South Africa,” NICD acting executive director Adrian Puren said.

The World Health Organisation is taking B.1.617.2 as a variant of interest and “is one of multiple variants circulating in India,” the institute noted.

Mkhize said all cases of the Indian variant have been isolated and managed according to Covid-19 case management guidelines.

Contact tracing has also been performed to limit the spread of this variant, he said, adding that another variant currently dominating Covid-19 infections in Europe and North America, the B.1.1.7, has also been detected in South Africa. 

Eleven cases of B.1.1.7 were confirmed, with eight cases in the Western Cape Province, two cases in Gauteng province and one case in KwaZulu-Natal province, Mkhize said.

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