South Africa is at least the fourth country on the continent to pick up the B.1.617.2 variant, alongside Kenya, Uganda, and Morocco
South Africa's health ministry on Saturday said four cases of a coronavirus variant fuelling a devastating surge of Covid-19 in India had been recorded in the country.
"The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in (the provinces of) Gauteng (2) and KwaZulu-Natal (2) and all have a history of recent arrival from India," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Saturday, reports AFP.
Eleven cases of another variant first detected in the United Kingdom and known as B.1.1.7 have also been found, the statement added, noting that community transmission of that variant had "already set in".
The Network for Genomic Surveillance in SA (NGS-SA) confirmed today that 2 variants of concern, other than the B.1.351 already dominating in South Africa, have been detected. These are: B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK)- 11 cases. B.1.617.2 (first detected in India)- 4 cases. pic.twitter.com/EigBCcgaJs— Department of Health (@HealthZA) May 8, 2021
South Africa is at least the fourth country on the continent to pick up the B.1.617.2 variant, alongside Kenya, Uganda, and Morocco.
India is grappling with an explosive coronavirus outbreak widely attributed to the variant, which has now been found in more than a dozen countries worldwide.
Being a neighbour, Bangladesh has also detected its first cases of the highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in India.
South Africa has not yet joined the growing number of countries worldwide that have banned flights from India to limit the spread of its variant.
Mkhize said travel restrictions would "need to be balanced against scientific realities" to protect the economy of Africa's most industrialised nation.
An announcement will be made once the cabinet has consulted on the matter, he added.
South Africa is the continent's worst virus-hit country, accounting for more than 34% of all cases in the region.
The country's second coronavirus wave, which peaked earlier this year, was driven by a local, more infectious coronavirus variant known as B.1.351.
Mkhize earlier this week raised the alarm over "a worrying trend of increasing numbers of detected cases" in certain provinces.
He warned of a looming third wave of infections likely to coincide with the upcoming southern hemisphere winter.
To date, the country has recorded more than 1.59 million coronavirus cases, of which more than 54,700 have been fatal.
South Africa has ordered tens of millions of vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer as it looks to ramp up its slow mass vaccination campaign, with only 382,480 frontline healthcare workers inoculated out of a population of 60 million, reports Reuers.
Meanwhile, India on Sunday registered 403,738 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the tally of infections in the country to 22,296,414 since the pandemic broke out last year.
The country's toll climbed by 4,092 deaths to 242,362.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said over 900,000 coronavirus patients in the country are on oxygen support, while more than 170,000 are on ventilators, reports Scroll.in.
WHO’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan warns a Covid-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country’s explosive outbreak.— scroll.in (@scroll_in) May 9, 2021
Follow live updates on #CoronavirusCrisis here: https://t.co/zEvMGTfRoG pic.twitter.com/yQzszV1nSW
World Health Organization's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan warns a Covid-19 variant spreading in India is more contagious and may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country’s explosive outbreak, it said citing AFP.