Experts allay fears about COVID-19 variant

The COVID-19 variant has significantly impacted South Africa's second wave of infections, as it's more contagious but not more contagious than the UK variant, according to the World Health Organisation. Local experts say the country's variant strain is currently being critically studied and that there's no need to panic. Rianté Naidoo reports. Courtesy #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - Amid global concerns about new variants of the coronavirus, British scientists are fearful that it's the South African strain that may cause the greatest risk.

But local experts say the country's variant strain is currently being critically studied and that there's no need to panic.

"Currently there's no evidence that cases are more severe," said Dr Jeremy Nel, an infectious disease specialist.

READ: Long COVID: Who is at risk?

"However, just being more transmissible will lead to many more deaths anyway because it overwhelms more healthcare systems.

"What we're seeing, for example, at the hospital I work at, two wards full of COVID patients to ten wards full of COVID patients in just three weeks," Nel said.
Of global concern now is whether vaccines will be effective against the variant strain.

READ: New coronavirus variant 'not out of control': WHO

"There's a lot of work being done by the researchers involved in vaccine trials now to see whether there will or won't be any impact on that," said Professor Helen Rees, expert COVID-19 advisor for the WHO.

Rees says these results should be known within weeks and that this shouldn't delay the procurement and rollout of vaccines.

South Africa could get vaccines as early as next month if government's bilateral talks with manufacturers are fruitful. 

* Rianté Naidoo reports.


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