A new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 has been detected in South Africa after 22 people tested positive for it, said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Thursday.
The NICD said they had discovered the variant after genomic sequencing in collaboration with private laboratories.
"It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa. Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date," said NICD acting executive director Adrian Puren.
He said there is a surge in COVID-19 cases particularly in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo Provinces.
Michelle Groome, NICD head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response, said health officials are on high alert, sequencing COVID-19 positive samples.
"This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well-ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant."