MEDICAL staff inoculate police personnel with the vaccine against Covid-19, inside a government school, in Hyderabad. Picture:Noah Seelam AFP
MEDICAL staff inoculate police personnel with the vaccine against Covid-19, inside a government school, in Hyderabad. Picture:Noah Seelam AFP

Expert confirms Covid-19 ‘Indian variant’ case being investigated in Cape Town is South Africa’s 501Y.V2 Variant

By Karen Singh Time of article published May 5, 2021

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DURBAN: A Covid-19 “Indian variant” case, under investigation by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) at Tygerberg Hospital, has been confirmed as not being the B.1.617 variant rapidly spreading through India.

Professor Wolfgang Preiser, who heads the Medical Virology Department of Pathology at Stellenbosch University and the NHLS at the hospital, said while he could not elaborate further about the case, treating clinicians had brought the possibility the variant could be from India, to their attention.

“We have confirmed that a case being investigated here is not infected with the B.1.617 ’Indian’ variant,” he said.

Preiser said while there were several other possible cases elsewhere, on this occasion it showed the “system works”.

“To my knowledge the patient was infected with the 501Y.V2 South African variant of the virus, but the source and timing of infection are unknown,” he said.

Preiser told The Mercury yesterday he was proud of the work done by the Network for Genomic Surveillance South Africa.

“This allowed us to detect the 501Y.V2 variant in early December, and to monitor its spread over space and time. Many countries, including many industrialised ones, have still not reached the same level of monitoring that we have,” added Preiser.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed on Monday night the B.1.617 variant circulating in India had not yet been detected in South Africa.

Meanwhile, a ship, the Eaubonne, which sailed from India on April 18 and berthed at the Port of Durban on Sunday, is under quarantine after the death of a crew member, and 14 other crew members testing positive for Covid-19.

Transnet said that, upon arrival at the harbour, as a standard precautionary measure and as a requirement for a ship’s next port of call, all crew members were required to be tested for, and cleared of, Covid-19.

“Fourteen of the crew members tested positive. The entire vessel is currently in quarantine at the Port of Durban, as per Covid-19 regulations. Contact tracking and tracing is being undertaken,” it said.

In a statement on Tuesday night, the Health Ministry said the death of a crew member on the vessel was reported to Port Health on May 1.

“The body was subsequently transported to a state mortuary for a post mortem – due to sampling difficulties, authorities still await the PCR test result. However, contact tracing proceeded for 21 crew members – of those, 14 tested positive with Covid-19 and seven have tested negative.

“As all the members are asymptomatic, it was elected to keep all the crew on board in appropriate quarantine or isolation conditions. The vessel has been secured and is currently under strict security in its berth, until authorities decide to move it to the outer anchorage, until the containment period is successfully completed,” said the Health Ministry.

Regarding other cases, the department also said three air travellers from India, who arrived last month on three separate Qatar Airlines flights, from Doha, at King Shaka International Airport, had been placed in isolation.

“’The first passenger subsequently took ill and remains in isolation at a health-care facility, while the other two passengers are currently asymptomatic and in isolation at paid lodgings. Port Health has provided details of passengers who were close contacts and the National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) has overseen the cases for sample collection, contact tracing and intensified surveillance,” said the Health Department.

THE MERCURY

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