Health Department discussing new COVID-19 variant
Health Department discussing new COVID-19 variant. Photo: NCID

South Africa’s Department of Health (DOH) says it is in consultation with scientists over a highly transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus. According to local media reports over the weekend, SA has found its first case of the variant.

“[The department] has been alerted about this highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant and is currently in discussions with the scientists to gather more information including its transmissibility and severity. Thus, an official communication will be made in due course.

“In the meantime [the department] is appealing to everyone to vaccinate, get boosters, wear your masks, keep the distance, avoid overcrowded places and wash your hands,” the department said.

Earlier this month, the department called for calm following an increase in the number of infections in China.

“[The department] is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in China and other parts of the world and will issue an alert if the country needs to take extra precautions. There is no need for panic. We urge people to vaccinate and get booster shots to enhance their immunity,” the department said.

By last week Monday, 38 261 917 vaccines had been administered in the country with more than 19 million people having been fully vaccinated.

The last update by the department in December indicated that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had crossed 4 million with over 3.9 million recoveries at a recovery rate of 97.2%. –