SA records 22 cases from new COVID variant, Phaahla says number steadily rising

This comes after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Thursday confirmed a new COVID19 variant called B.1.1.529.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla at a briefing on 30 September 2021. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Joe Phaahla has on Thursday afternoon convened an urgent briefing on the latest developments around COVID-19 and the country's vaccination programme.

This comes after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Thursday confirmed a new COVID19 variant called B.1.1.529.

Twenty-two positive cases of this variant have been recorded in South Africa following genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories.

Phaahla said South Africa has seen a steady increase in infections, with the majority recorded in Gauteng.

“In the last four to five days, there has been a more exponential rise starting about eight days ago where we had a total daily infection rate of 273 positive cases and as of yesterday, we passed the 1,000 mark.”

Director of research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal professor Tulio De Oliveira presented information about the newly detected variant.

De Oliveira: “Unfortunately, we have detected a new variant. It is the reason for concern. The main message is that you have to know the enemy that you have to fight.”

Infectious diseases expert at the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform Doctor Richard Lessells said scientists are working hard to understand the new variant.

“There is a lot that we don’t about this variant and what it means particularly for how this virus might behave. And so, what we already started to work on is trying to the impact of these mutations on the behaviour of this virus,” Lessells said.