On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa placed South Africa under Level 4 lockdown for two weeks, in a bid to tame the new COVID-19 variant referred to as ‘Delta’.
Ramaphosa, who’s faced mounting backlash for making this decision, stated that, thus far, the Delta variant has affected five provinces, namely Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
What is the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is also known as the B.1.617.2 strain. It is a Coronavirus mutation that was first detected in India in February 2021 and has now been spreading rapidly throughout the world.
The variant has been identified in at least 85 countries, on every continent apart from Antarctica, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Delta variant was the fourth to be declared a “variant of concern” by WHO; the others are B.1.1.7, which was first seen in the United Kingdom and is now known as the Alpha variant; B.1.351, or Beta, was first detected in South Africa; and P.1, a mutation first found in Brazil and now called Gamma according to CNN.
What’s the difference Delta and other variants?
Experts now believe the Delta strain is likely more transmissible. Early evidence suggests this variant could cause an increased risk of hospitalisations in comparison to the other strains.
This could explain the capacity issues currently faced by South Africa’s public and private hospitals. The common signs of COVID-19, loss of smell or taste, a persistent cough and a fever, are said to be less visible with Delta, according to MSN.
A headache, cough and a sore throat are more prevalent symptoms with this mutation.
Will the vaccine work on the Delta variant?
There is evidence that suggests that existing COVID-19 vaccines may be efficient against this strain. A team of researchers reported they had found evidence that supports the notion that the Pfizer vaccine would provide sufficient protection against the Delta variant and others.
“The delta variant, the virus, will continue to evolve. Right now our public health and social measures work, our vaccines work, our diagnostics work, our therapeutics work. But there may be a time where this virus evolves and these countermeasures don’t,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19.