Delta variant driving new infections by 45%, greatest in Gauteng – NICD

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Jun 30, 2021

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THE Covid-19 Delta variant is increasingly becoming the dominant variant in South Africa with the greatest prevalence in Gauteng.

The variant, first detected in India at the end of March, was detected in 45% of the nationally sequenced Covid-19 specimens in June. In Gauteng, the Delta variant accounts for 53% of sequenced specimens.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD said genomic data showed that specimens of the Beta variant— which dominated the country’s second wave — is dropping while the Delta variant is increasing.

The data was generated by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, sequencing teams from the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) and a number of universities.

“Sequenced Covid-19 specimens during May, shows that 70% of 680 genomes were the Beta variant. However, in June genomes (n=541) sequenced from samples revealed a 31% drop in the Beta variant to 39%, with the Delta variant increasing and accounting for 45%,” read the NICD press release.

Considered to be the epicentre of the third wave, Gauteng, currently accounts for an average of 65% of daily new cases.

“In Gauteng, 64% of 244 genomes sequenced from May are attributed to the Beta variant, while in June this dropped to 37%. In contrast, during June, 53% of genomes (n=341) from Gauteng were the Delta variant.”

NICD's Acting Executive Director, Professor Adrian Puren, said that reinfection with the Delta variant is possible following a Beta infection, due to waning of immunity.

“It is not surprising that new variants have been detected in South Africa. We would like to assure the public that the institute is focusing its resources and research efforts towards understanding the variants and we would like to salute all healthcare workers who continue to fight bravely against Covid-19,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address to the nation on Sunday that the variant has been detected in five provinces, including the Eastern Cape, the Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

The NICD said that data gathered from the UK found the variant to be 97% more transmissible than the original lineage.

“Covid-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe disease after Delta variant infection, with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showing 96% efficacy after two doses.

“Limited data are available on whether different symptoms result following Delta infection, and preliminary data from the UK suggests that the Delta variant can potentially cause more severe disease,” said the health institute.

Other variants of concern (VOC) which are circulating in South Africa include the Alpha, and Eta variants. They were detected in May and respectively account for 6% and 1% of the samples collected.

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