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COVID-19 update – infections surge, new variants detected in SA

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

With rising numbers of COVID-19 infections being recorded daily, as well as new variants of the coronavirus detected locally, beauty salons and spas are urged to be extra-vigilant in terms of adhering to social distancing and sanitisation protocols.

On Friday, 14 May, government reported that more than 3,000 new COVID-19 infections had been recorded in one day – for the first time in three months.

Says acting executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Professor Adrian Puren: “We understand that many are suffering from COVID-19 fatigue and becoming lax in exercising preventative measures. But for the sake of yourselves and your loved ones, wash or sanitise your hands, wear your masks and maintain physical distance of 1.5 m from others. Remember to hold gatherings outdoors, or in well ventilated areas and roll up your sleeve once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to you.”

In terms of the new variants detected in South Africa, the NICD has sequenced COVID-19 specimens from individuals with a recent travel history to India. An NICD statement reads: “Five of the specimens tested positive for B.1.617.2 (three cases from Gauteng and two from KwaZulu-Natal). The B.1.617.2 variant is currently highlighted as a variant of interest by the World Health Organization and is one of multiple variants circulating in India. All cases have been isolated and managed according to COVID-19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the spread of this variant.

“Another variant that is currently dominating COVID-19 infections in Europe and North America, B.1.1.7 has also been detected in South Africa. Eleven cases of B.1.1.7 have been confirmed, with eight cases in the Western Cape, two cases in Gauteng and one case in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Says Puren: “It is not surprising that new variants have been detected in South Africa. We would like to assure the public that the institute is focusing their resources and research efforts towards understanding the variants and what the potential implications are for South Africa.”

Dr Michelle Groome, head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD, adds that provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritising the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples from travellers entering the country, from India specifically and their close contacts.

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