The Department of Health has detected 4 cases of the B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant that emerged in India. Additionally, eleven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the UK have also been confirmed. Of the eleven cases of the UK variant detected, eight were confirmed in the Western Cape (with two patients having a history of travel from Bahrain), one was detected in KwaZulu-Natal and two were detected in Gauteng.
The Health Department theorises that community transmission of the UK variant may have already set in since it was detected in community samples. “As the epidemic progresses, the detection of new variants is inevitable. The work of genomic surveillance assists us to detect the variants and understand their behaviour and to refine vaccines so they remain effective. It is important to emphasise that variants can develop at any time in any country so they do not have to be imported,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.