Faizel Patel – 05/05/2021
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ (NICD) Dr Jinal Bhiman says they are monitoring the situation in South Africa to determine if there are any cases of the B.1.617 variant.
Dr Bhiman was speaking to Radio Islam on Wednesday about the variant which has been circulating widely in India.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the variant had not been detected in South Africa yet and genomics teams were working on some samples to determine whether South Africa has been impacted.
Mkhize says an air traveller who had recently returned from India via Doha was currently in isolation at a health facility after falling ill, while two others were currently asymptomatic and were isolating after travelling to that country.
Dr Bhiman says it is not yet confirmed whether the travellers are infected with the B.1.617 variant.
“We are waiting eagerly and waiting for that set results. But I think we are monitoring the situation, we now obviously looking into all cases who are returning from India or individuals who had contact with people who were returning from India and we are trying to keep tabs on that.”
Dr Bhiman says there are concerns that the B.1.617 variant may be resistant to the current COVID-19 vaccine.
Immuno-state (SIC) is a definite concern. But what we also know is based on the trials is that despite the fact that we’ve seen this reduced foreign neutralization sensitivity of some of these variants, the vaccines are still preventing severe infection and that’s really the main thing that we want to prevent.”
While many countries have banned flights from India, Dr Bhiman says it is not sustainable for South Africa to ban flights, emphasizing that what is being experienced in that country is likely a contribution of many different factors and that the B.1.617 is not the only variant in India.
Listen to the interview with Dr Jinal Bhiman