With reports that a new COVID-19 variant circulating in India has been identified in South Africa, scientists say there is no need for panic.
The department of health has confirmed that the variant which was detected in the south Asian country has been found on South African soil.
Four people who recently travelled from India have tested positive for the variant.
Two cases have been identified in Gauteng and the others in KwaZulu-Natal.
Wits university vaccinology expert Professor Shabir Madhi said there was no need for panic as virus mutations and variants are inevitable.
India is grappling with an explosive coronavirus outbreak widely attributed to the variant, which has now been found in more than a dozen countries worldwide – including South Africa.
Professor Madhi, who is one of the foremost minds in the fight against COVID-19, said he is not panicked about the variant, adding that this would not be the cause of a major resurgence.
“Yes, it is a concern that the variant has been identified in South Africa, but that is not the reason we are going to experience a resurgence – which is underway in many of the provinces already. The biggest factor for the resurgence in South Africa is the ongoing transmission of the variant that was identified in South Africa since December 2020.”
With South Africa playing catch up with its vaccination programme, Madhi said there was not enough information to tell whether the existing vaccines would be effective against the variant.
The government has reiterated that non-pharmaceutical interventions remain the best method to delay a possible resurgence of the coronavirus.
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