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DOH Provides Update on COVID-19 and the 501.V2 Variant

January 20, 2021

Department of Health

The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, has called on South Africans to continue to adhere to the Covid-19 regulations.

The minister was addressing a scientific webinar on an update on Covid-19 and the 501.V2 Variant.

The minister added that adherence to regulations was “crucial to ensure we can maintain the decline we are observing, which will be threatened by increased movement of people across provinces and into places of congregation”.

The minister pointed to promising signs of decline in transmission including a 23% decrease on Sunday in new cases nationally compared to 7-days prior.

“This could be attributable to many factors, including enhanced physical distancing facilitated by lockdown regulations”, he said.

However, according to the minister, the health care system continues to experience significant strain with hospitalisations continuing to trend upwards with an 18,3% increase on 16 January compared to 7-days prior.

“As at 16 January, nearly 18 000 (17 878) patients were admitted, with 2472 in ICU, 1117 on ventilators and 5 850 requiring oxygen.”

The minister assured health care workers that government will provide them with vaccines.

“The programme will prioritise you, as our front line workers, from this first quarter of the year. We will then continue to roll out inoculation to all parts of our country during the second quarter onwards”, he said.

During a briefing, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the COVID-19 ministerial advisory committee, indicated that the virus is spreading 50% faster in the 2nd wave than the 1st wave in coastal provinces where the 501Y.V2 variant is known to be dominant, no evidence exists that the new variant is more severe, natural antibodies seem to be less effective against the new variant and no empiric evidence exists yet on whether vaccines are effective against the 501Y.V2 variant with studies underway.