8 May 2021
As of today the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases identified in South Africa is 1 594 817.
Deaths and Recoveries
Today, 37 more COVID-19 related deaths have been reported: Eastern Cape 0, Free State 2, Gauteng 21, Kwa-Zulu Natal 7, Limpopo 0, Mpumalanga 0, North West 0, Northern Cape 7 and Western Cape 0 which brings the total to 54 724 deaths.
We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the health care workers who treated the deceased patients.
The cumulative recoveries now stand at 1 514 088, representing a recovery rate of 95%.
The number of Health Care Workers Vaccinated under the Sisonke Protocol to date is 382 480.
Variants of Concern Detected in South Africa
As announced on the statement of 6 May 2021, we have intensified genomic surveillance to guide us on managing importation of variants of concern. We indicated that the genomics teams were sequencing a number of samples and committed to publicizing the results when they were concluded and verified.
The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) confirmed today that 2 variants of concern, other than the B.1.351 already dominating in South Africa, have been detected.
B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK)- 11 cases.
B.1.617.2 (first detected in India)- 4 cases.
In addition the B.1.351 (first detected here in South Africa) has been sequenced from a patient traveling from Bangladesh.
The four cases of B.1.617.2 have been detected in Gauteng (2) and KwaZulu-Natal (2) and all have a history of recent arrival from India. All cases have been isolated and managed according to national COVID-19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been performed in order to limit the spread of this variant.
Of the eleven cases of B.1.1.7, eight were detected in the Western Cape (with two having a history of travel from Bahrain), one was detected in KwaZulu- Natal and two were detected in Gauteng
The B.1.1.7 has been detected in community samples and this therefore suggests that community transmission of B.1.1.7 has already set in.
As the epidemic progresses, the detection of new variants is inevitable. The work of genomic surveillance assists us to detect the variants and understand their behaviour and to refine vaccines so
they remain effective. NGS-SA remains vigilant as it continues to support the Department of Health.
There are a number of other samples from cases with a history of recent travel into South Africa that are currently being sequenced and results are expected over the next few days.
It is important to emphasise that variants can develop at anytime in any country so they do not have to be imported.
We reiterate that there is no need for panic, as the fundamentals of the public health response (testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine) have not changed.
We all have a responsibility to adhere to prevention measures (avoiding large gatherings, physical distancing, mask wearing, ventilation and hand sanitation) in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa. The world is still grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, with surges in one territory bound to spillover into other territories. We are all deeply concerned about the threat of variants of concern and these reports demonstrate that the issue is complicated.
Travel restrictions will need be balanced against the scientific realities in order to protect the economy.
These findings are urgently being processed by government and announcements pertaining to travel regulations will be made after all appropriate consultations have been undertaken by Cabinet.
Dr. Zwelini Mkhize
Minister of Health