New Covid-19 variant in South Africa ‘of concern at a global level’ — WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the Covid-19 B.1.617 variant as one of concern, but the agency maintains that available vaccines remain effective “at preventing disease and death in people infected with this variant”.

The B.1.617 variant, first detected in India, was previously viewed as one of interest. New data of the variant’s particular lineage — B.1.617.2 — have shown a rapid spread to countries across the world, including in South Africa.  

Maria van Kerkove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and the WHO’s lead on Covid-19, told media on Monday, 10 May that “there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617. As such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at a global level.” 

The WHO’s list of concerning variants includes B.1.1.7, first detected in the UK, P.1 originally from Brazil, and the B.1.351 variant, first detected in South Africa. 

Barring the P.1 variant, South Africa has detected all other variants in the country. 

Referring specifically to the B.1.617 variant, Van Kerkove said “we don’t have anything to suggest that our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines don’t work” against this lineage. 

Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, told the Mail & Guardian that South Africans should not be “overly concerned” about the new variants, but rather about the number of Covid cases again increasing in several provinces. 

“It’s those two things together that should worry us rather than just the fact that these variants are coming into the country, because that’s not surprising. We see rising infections and new variants in many parts of the world. It’s inevitable as we’re travelling much more than a year ago,” argues Lessells. 

On Monday, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said a global “plateauing in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths” had been recorded in most regions. However, it remained a high plateau, he said “with more than 5.4-million reported cases and almost 90 000 deaths last week”.

In South Africa, the number of daily Covid infections fell to fewer than 2 000 on Sunday after a four-day high with reported daily cases of slightly more than 2 000. Since the last report on Monday, 10 May, 1 129 new infections were recorded, bringing the number of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year to 1 597 724. 

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

The Opera Virgin attends ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

Opening one’s mind to new artistic disciplines could provide enlightenment to glorious new pursuits.

What’s behind the vulture poisonings in Kruger and Chobe parks?

People poison vultures for various reasons, including a belief that they can see into the future and to stop authorities from being alerted to poaching

Kenya’s Ruto declared president-elect amid results chaos

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati said Ruto had won almost 7.18 million votes (50.49%) in the August 9 vote, against 6.94 million (48.85%t) for his rival Raila Odinga.

Kenya vote chief declares Ruto president-elect

The deputy president has been declared the winner of the close-fought election, despite several commissioners rejecting the results
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×