Let’s keep it plain and simple. Last night, our minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, flanked by two top scientists, made a pretty scary announcement about a deadly new variant of the coronavirus hitting Mzansi.
By midnight today, South Africa will most likely cross the 900 000 mark of covid-19 infections. What makes it more worrisome is that the new variant, called 501.V2, is driving the second wave of infections.
Prof. Abdool Karim, co-chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on covid-19, started his latest update by saying, “I am afraid we do not have good news for you…”
In a nutshell, here’s what you should know about the latest developments:
The new variant is driving the new wave of covid-19 infections in Mzansi. It was first detected in the Eastern Cape, and then moved to the Garden Route, one of our most popular holiday destinations. Now it is highly present in Gauteng and the Western Cape where it accounts for 88% of samples.
That doesn’t mean other provinces are safe, though. The scientists are telling us that the transmission patterns are the same. The new variant is highly contagious too. Mkhize says it is “spreading faster than the first wave” and was “probably across most of South Africa by now”.
The new covid-19 strain is making young and previously healthy people severely ill. Mkhize says, “We’re no longer asking young people to only think of others. They must think of themselves too because they are now equally at risk of dying.”
South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent with over 24 000 related deaths. A resurgence in positive cases saw government tighten lockdown restrictions.
Actually, the new variant already emerged a few weeks ago. What is surprising, though, was how rapidly 501.V2 had become dominant in South Africa. It’s also been reported in the UK, Australia and other countries, but not even nearly as dominant as in Mzansi. While in other countries the new variant accounts for about 2% of all the virus that had been sequenced, in South Africa it is between 18% and 19%.