The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Thursday that a new Covid-19 variant known as B.1.1.529 had been detected in SA.
Twenty-two positive cases of the variant have been recorded in the country after genomic sequencing collaborations between the NICD and private laboratories. Other laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out.
“It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in SA,” said NICD acting executive director Prof Adrian Puren.
“Although the data is limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date.”
“Detected cases and percent testing positive are both increasing quickly, particularly in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo,” the NICD said in a statement.
Dr Michelle Groome, head of the division of public health surveillance and response at the NICD, said provincial health authorities were on high alert and were prioritising the sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla and deputy health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo are giving a briefing on the latest developments.
This is a developing story.