South Africa on high alert for new COVID-19 variant emerging in India

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A press conference on COVID-19 is held in Proteria, South Africa, March 9, 2020. South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday announced that four more South Africans have been tested positive for the COVID-19. (Xinhua)
A press conference on COVID-19 is held in Proteria, South Africa, March 9, 2020. South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Monday announced that four more South Africans have been tested positive for the COVID-19. (Xinhua)

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday assured that the government was on high alert of the B.1.617 coronavirus variant, a new COVID-19 variant which first emerged in India and was blamed for fueling that country’s surge of the cases of the pandemic.

Mkhize said all South Africa’s ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimize the importation of COVID-19. Passengers arriving are being screened and their close contacts monitored.

Mkhize’s remarks came after a person who arrived in South Africa from India this week tested positive for COVID-19. The patient was treated in isolation at an undisclosed hospital. Since Monday, concerned locals called on the government to ban people traveling from India.

Mkhize said the Ministerial Advisory Committee had been consulted on this issue.

“Their advice will assist us to determine the next steps forward, of which government will announce in due course,” he said.

The Minister said there were currently no direct flights from India.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the B.1.617 coronavirus variant, which is believed to contain mutations from two separate virus variants and may be more infectious, has not been detected in South Africa, adding that it was keeping tabs on the coronavirus variants locally and international.

“The institution has tremendous empathy for the dire situation that is unfolding in India and would like to reassure the South African public that we are keeping a close eye on developments,” said NICD’s Acting Executive Director Adrian Puren. Enditem

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