A person, who travelled from India to South Africa, has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
However, health teams are still testing whether the person has been infected with the virus variant currently spreading in India.
“Covid-19 case numbers currently remain extremely low in our hospitals. We can however confirm that one patient who had recently travelled from India was treated in isolation for Covid-19 at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. We remain vigilant in maintaining strict safety precautions in our facilities and apply an abundance of caution in treating all patients,” said Dr Caroline Maslo, senior clinical advisor and head of infection control of Netcare’s hospital division.
According to a source in the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), the individual was seen at Kingsway Hospital in Durban and then transferred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital.
“He is positive – the only thing outstanding is gene sequencing for the India variant of Covid-19. India’s variant is slightly different because it has a triple mutation, which is why it is probably spreading so fast over there,” the committee insider said.
He added that gene sequencing could take up to a week.
“The Covid-19 tracing teams are trying to trace his contacts at the moment.”
The source added that many in the MAC were pushing for stricter border protocols in SA.
“Our main problem is our borders. We are pushing for government to close the airports. Our borders are so porous.”
He said SA presently allowed people with negative tests into the country.
“We are pushing for mandatory 14 days quarantining upon landing. If you come from another country, we are not interested in your piece of paper, we want to ensure you are negative to protect others in our society.”
India, one of the most populated countries on the planet, has reported over 3 000 deaths in one day, the highest ever in a day, taking the country to 215 000 deaths overall.
They also recorded just under 400 000 infections, bringing the total number of cases past 19.5 million.
NICD on India
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), they were following the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in India, particularly the different variants, including the B.1.617 coronavirus variant.
“The institution has tremendous empathy for the dire situation that is unfolding in India and would like to reassure the South African public that we are keeping a close eye on developments,” said Professor Adrian Puren, the NICD’s Acting Executive Director.
To date the B.1.617 variant has not been detected in South Africa and any suspected cases will be investigated, he said.
“Testing of Covid-19 positive samples from travellers entering South Africa from India and their close contacts will be prioritised,” Dr Michelle Groome, Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD said.
She said this would enable the NICD to detect the B.1.617 and any other variants, “… in a timely manner”.
The mutation of viruses is a natural occurrence in the life-cycle of any virus, evident with the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 lineage in South Africa in October 2020, Puren said.
Although viral mutations are unavoidable, adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions have proven to greatly lessen transmission of the disease, he added.
“South Africans are reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands with soap and water or to use hand sanitiser, and to keep a physical distance of at least 1.5 m from others. Social activities and small gatherings should take place outdoors, if possible, or in well-ventilated areas with open windows and doors, as proper ventilation plays an important role in reducing the spread,” he said.
The National Department of Health did not respond to News 24’s request for comment. Their comment will be added once received.