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B.1.1.529: Will SA’s lockdown restrictions change after new variant found?

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It truly feels as if the rug has been pulled from under our feet on Thursday. The discovery of the new B.1.1.529 variant in South Africa – which is already spreading across the country – has the potential to disrupt our festive season, and super-charge a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. So, will this change our current lockdown restrictions?

South Africa left gobsmacked by B.1.1.529 strain

Joe Phaahla, the current Health Minister, has responded to these concerns earlier today. He had the unenviable task of confirming that a new variant was present within our borders, and presented some very stark data.

Dozens of cases of the new variant have been picked up in Gauteng, suggesting that this mutated strain is already embedding itself within our borders. However, Phaahla doesn’t believe lockdown restrictions will change immediately:

The Minister confirms that due to the newness of the variant, restrictions will remain unchanged for the time being until more is known. #B11529 #NewVariant

— NICD (@nicd_sa) November 25, 2021

Will the new variant plunge SA into tougher lockdown restrictions?

However, it really is worth noting that something could already be in the pipeline. Mia Malan, the editor of the health journal Bhekisisa, has revealed that the National Coronavirus Command Council will convene this weekend.

The NCCC is responsible for deciding if lockdown restrictions must be tightened or eased in South Africa. The Cabinet will be briefed by members, before any decision on what happens next can be taken. Malan expects that international travel will be the first measure that changes, and fears that B.1.1.529 will have an adverse impact on SA travellers.

“B.1.1.529 was only confirmed as present in South Africa on Tuesday 23 November. There’s been no time to decide yet. The National Coronavirus Command Council will meet this weekend to decide. We expect there will be implications for international travel, in the sense that some countries might not let SA travellers in.”

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