Health dept says it needs more info to confirm case of highly-transmissible Covid-19 subvariant

Rapid test device for Covid-19.
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  • The health department said it’s not yet able to confirm a case of a highly-transmissible subvariant of Covid-19.
  • The first case was reported in a series of tweets by Covid-19 scientist Prof Tulio de Oliveira.
  • The department has said it is investigating the claim but is yet to receive a patient profile. 

Claims that South Africa has recorded its first case of a highly-transmissible subvariant of the Covid-19 virus are under investigation by the Department of Health. However, until it has more information, the department cannot confirm if a case has been recorded.

Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said the announcement had originated within the scientific community and not from the department. He added that the department has yet to receive any information on the patient profile, including age, gender and the province in which they were tested.

“It’s very difficult to confirm a case without the patient profile. We don’t want to dismiss that there is a case, but we need more information before we can make a formal public announcement,” he said.

Mohale urged the public to remain calm but urged them to be vigilant and vaccinate.

In a series of tweets, Prof Tulio de Oliveira, Professor of Bioinformatics at the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking at Stellenbosch University, said the first case of the XBB.1.5 subvariant had been identified on Friday by Stellenbosch University and the Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa.

De Oliveira added that the case had been recorded in the Western Cape, which was “not surprising, given the number of international tourists”. He added that the subvariant is “still Omicron and SA has good population immunity”.

De Oliveira was not available for further comment at the time of publication.

Western Cape Department of Health’s chief of operations Dr Saadiq Kariem said the department would be monitoring the emergence of the new sub-variant “very closely”.

“Thus far we have not detected any increase in cases, hospitalisations, admissions, or deaths,” said Kariem.

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