Virologist, Tulio de Oliveira, says scientists are monitoring the United States (US) handling of the spread of the new COVID-19 sub-variant, in order to help South Africa prepare.
The Health Department has reiterated that it is not yet considering imposing restrictions following the detection of the new XBB 1.5 sub-variant in the country.
The Stellenbosch University has described it as the most transmissible to date with symptoms close to that of Omicron.
The XBB 1.5 variant, also nicknamed the Kraken, is currently prevalent in the United States.
De Oliveira says South Africa has high population immunity against COVID-19.
“Early detection and preparation can make a big difference. One also has to be reminded that the United States is a bit like South Africa with high population immunity, which is very different from China,” says De Oliveira.
“So, we need to see what happens in the United States to make sure that nothing or very little will happen in South Africa as we are alert and it will not cause a big problem in the country.”
De Oliveira on the highly transmissible Omicron XBB 1.5 sub-variant
VARIANT XBB.1.5 by SABC Digital News
Meanwhile 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 was 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.”