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No plans yet to place SA under tighter lockdown restrictions: Zweli Mkhize

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. File photo.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize. File photo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has not yet indicated his plans to place SA under tighter lockdown restrictions amid growing concerns over cases of new Covid-19 variants.

New Covid-19 variants, first detected in the UK and India, were confirmed in SA over the weekend.

Eleven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and four cases of the B.1.617.2 variant found in India were detected.

Speaking on SABC News, Mkhize said the increase in new Covid-19 cases was cause for concern but no indication to tighten the lockdown regulations has been given by Ramaphosa.

Mkhize said Ramaphosa will indicate his intentions “at the right time whenever it becomes necessary”.

“All we have to do is make sure there are adequate considerations put into issues that are needed to contain the spread of the virus so we are able to answer or respond to all the things we are seeing.”

Mkhize said although the country was not yet techincally in a third wave of infections, the government was monitoring the increase in cases and where they were coming from.

“Someone who came from Bangladesh was found to be positive with the variant found in India. It is clear the movement of people is what gives us these variants,” he said.

At the weekend, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the national health laboratory service, said of the four cases of B.1.617.2 variant, two were found in Gauteng and the others were detected in KwaZulu-Natal.

Of the 11 cases of B.1.1.7, eight were detected in the Western Cape, one was found in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Gauteng.

Prof Adrian Puren, the NICD’s acting executive director, said it was not surprising new variants have been detected in SA.

“We would like to assure the public that the institute is focusing resources and research efforts towards understanding the variants and what the potential implications are for SA.”

To date, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is 1,597,724 and the number of deaths is 54,825. The number of recoveries is sitting at 1,517,350 while 395,230 vaccines have been administered.

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