On Christmas Eve SA records 14 305 new coronavirus cases and 326 deaths
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On Christmas Eve 2020 Health Minister Zweli Mkhize reported that 14 305 new coronavirus cases identified and confirmed 326 more Covid-19 related deaths.
South African has a cumulative total of 968 563 Covid-19 cases, while the death toll stands at 25 983.
“Regrettably, we report 326 more Covid-19 related deaths: Eastern Cape 109 , Free State 4, Gauteng 22, Kwa-Zulu Natal 81 and Western Cape 110. This brings the total deaths to 25 983,” Mkhize said on Thursday.
A cumulative total of 6 325 784 tests have been conducted with 56 008 tests conducted since the last report.
Recoveries now stand at 822 978.
In a statement on Thursday Mkhize also said there was no evidence that the 501.V2 variant found in South Africa is more dangerous than the UK variant.
The Health Minister said he was concerned that some of the utterances made by UK Secretary for Health Matt Hancock on Wednesday “have created a perception that the variant in SA has been a major factor in the second wave in UK”.
Hancock announced on Wednesday restrictions on travel from South Africa with immediate effect following the discovery of two cases of the virus strain in Britain.
"This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK," Hancock said
“This is not correct,” Mkhize said. “There is evidence that the UK variant developed earlier than the South African variant.”
“To give some historical context, on 14 December, the UK reported to the WHO that a variant had been identified and traced back to 20 September 2020 in Kent, South East England- approximately a month before the South African variant appears to have developed. This variant has a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African variant (the 501), although they are two completely independent lineages. The UK variant is thought to be driving the second wave that the UK are experiencing currently.
“In addition, the UK variant has already been identified outside of the UK as reported by Prof Neil Ferguson, a top British scientists who told the UK's science and technology committee two days ago (23 Dec 2020) that evidence from Denmark, a country with a relatively low infection rate, suggests that 'almost certainly' the new virus variant identified in the UK is already in the 'great majority if not all' European countries.”
Mkhize said they were also concerned that there is rhetoric developing that the 501.V2 variant is more transmissible than the the UK variant or may potentially cause more serious morbidity and mortality.
This has come in the wake of two samples collected from contacts of South African travellers testing positive for a SARS-COV-2 variant genetically identical to 501.V2.
“We have consulted with our genomics team who have assured us that, at present, there is no evidence that the 501.V2 is more transmissible than the United Kingdom variant- as suggested by British Health Secretary. There is also no evidence that the 501.V2 causes more severe disease or increased mortality than the UK variant or any variant that has been sequenced around the world,” Mkhize said.
He added that banning travel between UK and SA was “an unfortunate decision”.
“Such a decision would require more scientific evidence than is currently available. There is no evidence that the SA variant is more pathogenic than the UK variant to necessitate this step.“