Updated: March 8, 2021
A COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa has been detected in the United States for the first time.
South Carolina health officials said on Thursday that two cases have been diagnosed in the state.
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The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said both cases did not appear to be connected, and the two persons involved did not have any history of recent travel.
AP quoted Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, as saying there could be more undetected cases within the state. “It’s probably more widespread, Dr. Kuppalli said.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that COVID-19 cases and deaths are surging in Africa as new, more contagious variants of the virus spread to additional countries.
Over 175 000 new COVID-19 cases and more than 6200 deaths were reported in Africa in the last week while infections rose by 50% on the continent between December 29, 2020 and January 25, 2021 when compared with the previous four weeks. In the past week, there has been a small dip in cases in South Africa, but 22 countries continue to see their case numbers surge. Deaths rose two-fold in the same four-week period, with over 15 000 concentrated in 10 mainly southern and northern African nations.
The 501Y.V2 variant, first identified in South Africa, is predominant and powering record case numbers in South Africa and the sub-region. It has been found in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, the French Indian Ocean region of Mayotte, Zambia and in 24 non-African nations.
“The variant which was first detected in South Africa has spread quickly beyond Africa and so what’s keeping me awake at night right now is that it’s very likely circulating in a number of African countries,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed a proclamation on January 25 suspending entry into U.S. for all non-Americans in South Africa, UK, Brazil, Ireland and the Schengen Area.
The Biden proclamation, which is meant to protect the United States against the coronavirus affects any non-citizen of the United States who has been to South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and the Schengen area, 14 days prior to their trip to the United States.
“The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation,” President Biden wrote in his proclamation.