DURBAN: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has rubbished claims that a new Covid-19 variant, first detected in India, has been found in South Africa.
NICD acting executive director Professor Adrian Puren said, to date, the B.1.617 variant has not been detected in South Africa and any suspected cases will be investigated.
He said the institution has tremendous empathy for the dire situation that is unfolding in India, and would like to reassure the South African public that they are keeping a close eye on developments.
Head of public health surveillance and response at the NICD Dr Michelle Groome said testing of Covid-19 positive samples from travellers entering South Africa from India, and their close contacts, will be prioritised.
“This will enable us to detect the B.1.617 and any other variants in a timely manner," she said.
According to the experts, the mutation of viruses is a natural occurrence in the life cycle of any virus, evident with the detection of the Sars-CoV-2 501Y.V2 lineage in South Africa, in October 2020.
Puren said although viral mutations are unavoidable, adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions have proven to greatly lessen transmission of the disease.
"South Africans are reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands with soap and water or to use hand sanitiser, and to keep a physical distance of at least 1.5m from other people.
“Social activities and small gatherings should take place outdoors if possible, or in well-ventilated areas with open windows and doors, as proper ventilation plays an important role in reducing the spread," he said.