Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has expressed concern over the number of COVID-19 infections being detected at the country’s ports of entry.
This comes after a total of 28 people who were on board two cargo ships tested positive for the respiratory disease.
The minister said they have consulted the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 as well as the genomics team – for guidance on how to manage travellers at the various ports of entry.
“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,” Mkhize said in a statement.
Mkhize says they remain on high alert for India variant
Zweli Mkhize’s comments come as 14 people who were on board a cargo ship which sailed from India, tested positive for COVID-19. The Filipino-crewed vessel docked in Durban on Sunday and is currently under lockdown.
In another incident, 14 crew members on board a ship which had travelled from Mombasa, Kenya to Gqeberha, have also tested positive for COVID-19.
India is fast becoming the global epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic with 20 million cases and counting. Many of the infections have been largely driven by the B.1.617 variant of the virus, which is dominant in that country.
There has since been concerns of the India variant being detected here in the country. While the presence of the variant (B.1.617) is yet to be determined, Mkhize said they remain on high alert.
“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 (VOC). Our teams remain on high alert to survey, detect and contain the spread of Covid-19 in general, with heightened awareness of travellers from countries where VOCs are dominating,” Mkhize added.
“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”
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize