Johannesburg, South Africa:
The South African health minister has denied claims by his UK counterpart that a new variant of coronavirus in the country is more contagious or dangerous than a similar variant in spreading the UK.
“There is currently no evidence that the 501.V2 (variant) is more transferable than the UK variant – as proposed by the UK Minister of Health,” Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement released late Thursday.
“Neither is there any evidence that (it) causes any more severe disease or increased mortality than the British variant or a variant that has been sequenced worldwide.”
Briton Matt Hancock announced travel restrictions for South Africa on Wednesday, saying that the variant there is “very worrying because it is even more transmissible and appears to have mutated further” than the similar strain in the UK.
The British Minister’s words “created the perception that the variant in SA was a major factor behind the second wave in Britain,” Mkhize said.
“That is not right.”
He pointed to evidence that the British strain, which carries a mutation similar to the South African strain, appeared in the southeastern county of Kent as early as September – “about a month before the South African variant appears to have developed”.
Citing “the widely held view of the scientific community”, Mkhize also argued that “the risks of travel bans may outweigh the benefits”.
“The UK-South Africa travel ban is an unfortunate decision,” he added.
South Africa is the most coronavirus-hit country on the continent, with nearly a million infections and 26,000 deaths.
Around 14,000 positive cases were recorded on each of the last two days, compared with 8,000 to 10,000 earlier this week.
Mkhize said Wednesday that new restrictions may be needed to slow the spread of the virus.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)