Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed 59 more Covid-19 deaths, taking South Africa’s death toll to over 54 511. Total infections since the pandemic arrived are now over 1.58 million, with 1187 infections recorded in the past 24 hours.
Mkhize also said more than s 339 655 healthcare workers had now been vaccinated under the Sisonke Protocol.
Under the Sisonke Protocol, the South African government is administering vaccines to healthcare workers in the public and private sector through an early access study.
Recently, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority approved the use of the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines for emergency use. On Sunday, more than 325 000 Pfizer vaccine doses landed at OR Tambo International Airport.
Speaking on the cargo ship from India, in which seaman died and 14 other crew members tested positive for Covid-19, Mkhize reassured South Africans that the B.1.617 variant – which is ravaging India, had yet to be detected in South Africa.
“This has been a difficult area during the Covid-19 pandemic, which can often drive exclusion, mistrust and sometimes even racist rhetoric.
“We share our people’s concerns but wish to reassure South Africans that we are a very capable nation that knows how to deal with the burden of a variant of concern.
“Our teams remain on high alert to survey, detect and contain the spread of Covid-19 in general, with heightened awareness of travelers from countries where VOC’s are dominating.
“We confirm that the B.1.617 variant, circulating widely in India, has not been detected, however, the genomics teams are working on some samples and we will need to allow the time it takes to sequence before we get an answer,” he said.
Mkhize said the B.1.351 (or 501Y.V2) variant – which was referred to as the SA variant – was the most dominant in the country.
He said one of the samples which had been taken from a traveler who came from India, was consistent with the 501Y.V2 variant.
“We remain mindful of the advise from the World Health Organisation that all variants are managed the same prevention by adhering to NPI’s, early detection, contact tracing, and testing and quarantine or isolation.
“These all form part of the regulations that govern the management of Covid-19 and it has been through adherence to these regulations that we have detected and contained Covid-19 cases at ports of entry,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said they were aware of three air travelers who had arrived on a flight from India, via Doha. He said one passenger was in isolation at a hospital, while two others were asymptomatic and were in isolation at hotels.
Meanwhile, he said seven people who had come in contact with the members of the ship from India had tested negative for Covid-19.
“As all the members are asymptomatic, it was elected to keep all the crew on board in appropriate quarantine or isolation conditions.
“The vessel has been secured and is currently under strict security in its berth until authorities decide to move it to the outer anchorage under strict security until the containment period is successfully completed,” said Mkhize.
In another incident in Gqeberha, he said a vessel that had arrived from Kenya and four crew members had tested ill aboard.
“The following day the shipmaster reported an ill crew member, who was immediately transferred out of the ship to a healthcare facility.
“The ill crew member together with 3 other crew members who were due to depart by air to their home country was immediately subjected to PCR tests on the 26 April 2021.
“Upon testing positive for COVID-19, these crew members were subsequently isolated at paid lodgings.
“Port Health, together with Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA), instructed the shipping agency to proceed with contact tracing and testing processes, with 20 crew members on board subjected to PCR tests.
“A further ten crew members have been detected with COVID19 and are isolating for 10 days at designated facilities. The other 10 members that tested negative will remain in quarantine on the ship,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said they were concerned to detect positive cases at ports of entry and that the government was attending to the issue as a matter of urgency.
“We have consulted the Ministerial Advisory Committee as well as the genomics team to guide us on the management of travelers at ports of entry during these challenging times.
“The government will be determining the next steps to follow and announcements will be made on the state of variants of concern in our context and what measures will be implemented to mitigate against the importation of Covid-19 in general,” said Mkhize.