CAPE TOWN – The Department of Health says that it has every confidence that vaccines are still effective against the new Covid-19 variant discovered in southern Africa, but it did say that the variant is more transmissible.
As of Friday, the cumulative number of Covid- 19 cases identified in South Africa is 2 955 328 with 2 828 new cases reported.
Furthermore, 12 deaths have been reported bringing the total to 89 783 deaths.
The cumulative number of recoveries now stands at 2 845 607 with a recovery rate of 96.3 percent.
Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla along with Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and a panel of experts addressed the media on Friday, November 26 through a virtual question and answer media interaction on the latest developments around the Covid-19 variant which has led to the United Kingdom (UK) placing travel bans from South Africa and five other Southern African countries as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said that the UK’s decision was rushed.
Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor said on Friday that she would engage with the UK government with the view to persuade them to reconsider the decision.
"Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries," she said.
Pandor said while South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed as even the WHO is yet to advise on the next steps.
Furthermore, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Friday that it believes that the current programme of vaccines in South Africa still offers high levels of protection against the newly identified Covid-19 variant.
The NICD says work is already under way to look at the immune escape potential of B.1.1.529 in the laboratory setting.
The Institute said the B.1.1.529 lineage has a deletion within the S gene that allowed for rapid identification of this variant in South Africa and will enable continued monitoring of this lineage irrespective of available sequence data.
Government has said the detection by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of a new coronavirus variant demonstrates South Africa’s constant vigilance and scientific capability in our management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The department of health further added that citizens need to continue with complying to health protocols, which include getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, keeping hands clean and staying in well ventilated areas during social gatherings regardless of the new Covid-19 variant .
President Cyril Ramaphosa will convene the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Sunday, November 28, to assess developments in the Covid-19 pandemic, including scientific updates around the newly detected coronavirus variant.
African News Agency