Variants explained

Last week we told you that three travellers from India tested positive for Covid-19. Fortunately, they did not carry the variant that is spreading like wildfire in India. But over the weekend and to our dismay, it was reported that four cases of the B.1.617 variant had been detected in South Africa: two in Kwa-Zulu Natal and two in Gauteng. The individuals had recently travelled to India. All cases have been isolated and managed according to Covid-19 case management guidelines and contact tracing has been done to limit the spread of the variant, so that’s a relief. Some background: there are loads of variants, because that’s how evolution works, but anything the World Health Organisation (WHO) labels “a variant of concern” is more dangerous because it spreads so rapidly. As it stands, there are four variants of concern globally: the B.1.1.7 detected in the UK, P1 from Brazil, B.1.351 from South Africa and now the B.1.617 from India. 

The best defence is vaccines. On that front, South Africa is due to begin phase two of our rollout on Monday. First in line are people aged 60 and older, followed by around 2.5 million essential workers including police, teachers and social workers. Phase two also extends to people over the age of 18 who suffer from comorbidities. A reminder that the government is hoping to have enough people vaccinated for herd immunity by February next year

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 April 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates