The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it cannot rule out the possibility that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India might already be in South Africa.
Acting director of NICD, Professor Adrian Puren, says when they look at all the other variants in circulation, it may well be inevitable that other variants will reach our shores because of travel.
“It is possible that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India has reached our shores because of travel. It is really critical for us to have a track and trace and quarantine process activated in order to ensure we have reduced transmission,” Puren told 702.
The B.1.617 variant has raised global concern after being reported in 17 countries including Germany, Belgium, the UK, Switzerland, the U, Singapore and Fiji.
The variant carries two mutations in the all-important spike protein that enables SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to infect unsuspecting cells of these. Multiple mutations such as these threaten to create a virus that is not only more contagious and potentially deadlier, but one that can also evade a vaccinated body’s immune system.
On Monday, Senior clinical adviser and head of Infection Control at Netcare, Dr Caroline Maslo, confirmed that a patient who recently arrived in South Africa from India was treated in isolation at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
Maslo said “We can however confirm that one patient who had recently travelled from India was treated in isolation for Covid-19 at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. We remain vigilant in maintaining strict safety precautions in our facilities and apply an abundance of caution in treating all patients,”
“South Africa’s Covid-19 test positivity rate is still relatively low at 5%, and although we remain cautiously optimistic for now, it remains vital that every person does their part and practises prevention measures including social distancing, hand washing, sanitising, wearing a face mask covering both the mouth and nose, and avoiding poorly ventilated areas,” she said.
Meanwhile, fourteen crew members aboard a cargo ship from India to Durban have been placed in isolation after one of them died during the ship's 14-day journey to South Africa.
The 14 crew members have been tested for the coronavirus and are awaiting their results. The ship from Indian has been docked at the Durban harbour since Sunday. Teams at the port have been urged to halt operations with the rice-carrying vessel. The cause of death has not been revealed.
The news comes on the back of an interview with Talk Radio 702 in which the acting director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Professor Adrian Puren, said they could not rule out the possibility that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India might be in the country.