As South Africa finds itself in the middle of a crippling third-wave, scientists have pointed to the Delta variant of coronavirus as a dominant reason behind the surge in infections.
The country’s acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Saturday confirmed that the third wave of coronavirus infections could be driven by the delta variant. The current resurgence could be worse than the second wave, the minister said.
South Africa on Friday recorded another 18,000 infections with 215 deaths.
While South Africa’s second coronavirus surge was due to Beta variant, experts have said that the variant first found in India is a likely factor in the third wave. The continent’s worst-affected nation in terms of coronavirus cases and deaths, accounts for roughly a third of confirmed infections and more than 40% of the deaths recorded across Africa.
The South African government is expecting that the peak of the third wave would surpass that of the second wave in January, when more than 21,000 new daily cases were recorded.
The Delta variant has been listed as ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Delta variant that’s been running rampant in South Africa is 30% to 60% more transmissible than other strains, including the Beta variant, first identified in the African nation last year, Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, said at the same briefing.
At present, the Delta variant has been traced in other countries like France, Germany, Norway and Hawaii which are witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The highly transmissible variant which the experts have termed to be more infectious than other variants is responsible for at least 9-10% of the total new confirmed cases in France, officials said. This is in sharp contrast to 2-4% of the cases seen last week in France.
“A new variant seems to be not only arising, but it seems to start dominating the infections in South Africa,” Professor Tulio de Oliveira at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told a news conference.
“It completely took over,” he said, adding that the Delta variant was more transmissible even than the Beta variant.
De Oliveira said there appeared to be community transmission of the Delta variant in KwaZulu-Natal province and that scientists were analysing the data for Gauteng, the province where the biggest city Johannesburg is located.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the country on Sunday evening on his planned response to curb the spread of the virus after a special cabinet meeting, the government said.