South Africa

SA one of the global leaders in genomic surveillance - Mkhize

CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that South Africa had become one of the global leaders in genomic surveillance.

A team of scientists at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), through genomic sequencing, detected the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant in the Eastern Cape last year.

In collaboration with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and other experts, they've now found that people infected with this variant had a level of protection against reinfection.

READ: Those who get 501Y.V2 variant protected from other variants - SA scientists

Very early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists used genomic sequencing to unlock genetic information within the coronavirus.

This enabled them to outline certain characteristics of the virus.

Health Minister Mkhize has stressed the importance of South Africa using this scientific method to stay on top of the COVID-19 pandemic's trajectory.

"It is something that has strengthened our ability as the South African government to respond to COVID-19, which is led by science."

On the latest discovery, the NICD's Professor Penny Moore pointed out that it was unclear how long antibodies lasted in people who'd been infected.

"I don't know how much antibodies are enough to protect you from reinfection, so while we assume that people who've become infected with the new variant are protected to some extent from reinfection, I don't know how long that protection will last."

Experts reiterated that it was in a virus's nature to mutate, saying that more coronavirus variants could emerge.

WATCH: People infected with 501Y.V2 variant are protected from past and current variants

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