Health activist, Dr Kgosi Letlape says there is no need to panic after the confirmation of the first case of the XBB.1.5 COVID-19 sub-variant in the country.
It is currently prevalent in the United States and according to the World Health Organisation, the sub-variant is XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible.
The Stellenbosch University’s Network for Genomics Surveillance detected the variant which has been described as the most transmissible to date.
The Health Department says it is still gathering more information about the variant including its transmissibility.
Dr Letlape says they will wait for the department to release the information. “Hopefully they will come forward with the information of who was the patient, where was it found, where did the patient come from, did the patient travel and that the precautionary measures of isolation and tracing of contacts will begin. What we do not want is to begin when the virus has spread beyond what is reasonable.”
Health activist Dr Kgosi Letlape:
The variant was discovered in gene sequencing carried out by researchers at Stellenbosch University from a December 27 sample. The head of the gene sequencing institute at the university Professor Tulio de Oliveira shared the news on social media.
Head of the gene sequencing Institute at the university Prof. Tulio de Oliveira:
XBB.1.5 is yet another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious variant of the virus causing COVID-19 that is now globally dominant. It is an offshoot of XBB, first detected in October, which is itself a recombinant of two other Omicron sub-variants.
Virologists agree that the emergence of the new sub-variant does not mean there is a new crisis in the pandemic. New variants are to be expected as the virus continues to spread.
XBB.1.5 is likely to spread globally, but it remains unclear if it will cause its own wave of infections around the world. The experts say current vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death.
“There is no reason to think that XBB.1.5 is of any more concern than other variants that come and go in the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 mutants,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. – Additional reporting by Reuters
INFOGRAPHIC: What you need to know about the new COVID-19 variant
VARIANT XBB.1.5 by SABC Digital News