Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga says the nation should not panic following the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in neighbouring countries as the Government is prepared.
South African health authorities on Thursday announced they had detected a new variant, B.1.1.529, which has been described as, “the worst one we’ve seen so far” since the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
The variant has infected dozens of people in South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
Addressing a Health Professions Authority congress on Friday morning, Chiwenga said:
With regards to the recent new COVID-19 variants being reported in the media, the country should not panic because we are very prepared.
The ramping up of our vaccination programme in the past month has seen a marked increase in vaccination uptake.
We remain focused on this very critical initiative that is designed to protect the nation from the negative impact of any new variants.
Meanwhile, our scientists are already doing genomic sequencing for the identification of any new variants hence helping support the timely strengthening of our response.
B.1.1.529 has spread anxiety across the globe with some countries, among them the UK, Israel and Singapore quickly banning travellers from southern Africa.
While a lot of questions about the variant remain unanswered, the variant carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is highly transmissible and vaccine-resistant.