South Africa’s health minister said Wednesday the country is on high alert for the COVID-19 variant circulating in India.
“We have registered the great concern that South Africans have expressed over possible recent importation of variants of concerns,” Zweli Mkhize said in a statement last night.
He said the government shares the concern, but assured the public they are a very capable nation that knows how to deal with the burden of a new variant.
“Our teams remain on high alert to survey, detect, and contain the spread of COVID-19 in general, with a heightened awareness of travelers from countries where variants of concern are dominating,” the minister said.
The minister’s statement came after a private healthcare group of hospitals confirmed that a patient who recently traveled to India tested positive for COVID-19, but the variant the patient had was not yet established.
Mkhize warned citizens against being drawn into mistrust and sometimes even having racist rhetoric against those from countries with variants of concern.
“We confirm that the B.1.617 variant, circulating widely in India, has not been detected, however, the genomics teams are working on some samples and we will need to allow the time it takes to sequence before we get an answer,” he said.
South Africa has the highest COVID-19 case burden on the continent with 1.59 million infections, including 54,511 deaths and 1.5 million recoveries.