The South African government has denied allegations that a new variant of the coronavirus that was discovered in the country played a huge part in the outbreak of the second wave of infections in the UK, and criticized its decision to impose travel restrictions.
While rejecting the allegation, South Africa’s Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, in a statement, on Thursday, disclosed that a new virus variant that was detected in the UK had a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African strain, known as 501.V2, but they were of two completely independent lineages.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Mkhize said that there was no evidence that 501.V2 caused more severe disease or increased mortality than any other variant that had been sequenced around the world, he said.
The comment from Mkhize follows an announcement from UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, that flights from South Africa would be banned, and that anyone who had stayed there for 2 weeks must quarantine immediately. Several other countries have also barred flights from South Africa.
What the South African Health Minister is saying
Mkhize, while citing ongoing research by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, which was launched in June, said the new UK strain was discovered about a month before the South African variant appeared to have developed. He described Hancock’s announcement as unfortunate.
He said, “It is the widely shared view of the scientific community that, given the current circumstantial evidence, the risks of travel bans may outweigh the benefits, and that it is possible to contain the variants while sustaining international travel. We, therefore, maintain that non-pharmaceutical interventions and strict containment measures remain most important to reduce the risk of transmission.”
What you should know
- It can be recalled that a few days ago, the UK government announced new travel restrictions on passengers coming from South Africa with effect from 9 am Thursday, December 24, to protect public health due to a reported outbreak of Covid-19, with a variant strain spreading in some provinces.
- The easing of restrictions in South Africa, several months ago, has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, and a second wave is now coinciding with the summer holidays.