Science & innovation department sets aside R25m to study new Covid-19 variant

The department of science and innovation is funding a study to understand the spread of Covid-19 and other virus lineages on the continent. File photo.
The department of science and innovation is funding a study to understand the spread of Covid-19 and other virus lineages on the continent. File photo.
Image: 123RF/perig76

As SA continues to battle the second wave of infections and the new Covid-19 variant, the department of science and innovation is set to fork out R25m to fund the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp).

This week, the department said a total of R45m is needed for scientists to complete the sequencing of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomes in SA and Africa.

“This was in the wake of the latest surveillance results that show a worrying trend of the highly transmittable Covid-19 variant first identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, and which moved to the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and is now the dominant and possibly the only Covid-19 variant responsible for the current surge."

WHAT WILL THE MONEY BE USED FOR?

The department said the grant will be used to understand the spread of Covid-19 and other virus lineages on the continent while also supporting the clinical and laboratory investigations of the genomic variation in the country.

Higher education, science and technology minister Blade Nzimande said the funds will also be used to buy equipment to :automate the sequencing system and to buy reagents and other laboratory consumables". 

Meanwhile, the Western Cape government has expressed concern about the increasing number of infections in the province.

On Tuesday, provincial head of health Dr Keith Cloete said the province is seeing more infections than it did at the height of the first wave.

“We see figures way above what we saw in June.

“Hospitalisations and deaths have continued to sharply increase since the middle of November. Hospitalisation has exceeded the peak of the first wave and deaths are increasing rapidly.

“We've seen sharp increases in every geographic area in the [Cape Town] metro except in Khayelitsha, which hasn’t exceeded the first peak,” he said in the weekly press briefing.

Provincial health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said health-care workers were exhausted from fighting the virus which first hit SA in March. She urged South Africans to play their part in combating further spread of the deadly virus. 

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