The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says a new variant of the virus could be driving the noticeable increase in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country, especially in Gauteng.
Scientists say the B11529 variant that has been identified in South Africa appears to be both highly transmissible and capable of evading parts of the immune system.
Gauteng is again driving the new spread of the virus with 1 950 new cases in the latest 24 hour reporting period, or 80% of new cases reported nationally.
2 465 new coronavirus infections have been identified in the country bringing the total number of cases to 2 952 500.
114 more people have succumbed to COVID-19 related complications. The death toll now stands at 89 771.
Head of the NICD’s Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response, Dr Michelle Groome says there has been a significant increase in new COVID-19 infections in the past week.
“What we know is that the case numbers have been increasing quite markedly over the last week to 10 days. As you’ve seen with the case numbers today where we’ve seen increases as well as an increase in the percent positivity, which is the number of positive cases out of the total number that are tested. This has been largely in Gauteng. So, it is definitely distinct from any of the other variants we’ve seen,” says Groome .
Government’s plans regarding new variant
In a briefing earlier, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the government still needs to meet and decide if there would be any need to restrict movement in the wake of the new COVID-19 variant.
Phaahla said hospital resurgence plans have been activated following his meeting with the country’s health MEC’s today.
“We are still going to have further discussions at various forums including the Coronavirus Council, the cabinet, consultation with Premiers, so it is too early to predict what is going to be the line of action. From the experience of the last 21 months or so, we can almost predict how this is going to move especially as Delta started in Gauteng, you can rest assured as people start to move even more in the next two weeks this will be all over.”
Department of Health briefing on the new variant: