Two cases of South African Covid variant identified in north Wales
Two cases of a new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa have been discovered in north Wales, health minister Vaughan Gething said today.
The cases have been found in Anglesey and Conwy and have the same the genetic sequence, there is “no clear evidence” as to how it has been caught.
The South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, has already spread to more than 30 countries.
There are concerns the new variant has the potential to “evade immunity” which would undermine current vaccination efforts.
During today’s Welsh government press conference, the health minister said 13 cases of the South African Covid variant have now been identified in Wales, an increase of three from last week.
“Ten of these cases have clear links to either South Africa or to international travel.”
“In the other three cases, there is currently no clear evidence of how they may have caught the virus.”
“Two of these cases are in north Wales – in Anglesey and in Conwy. They have the same genetic sequence and they were tested on the same day in the same laboratory.”
“The third case is in Neath Port Talbot.” He said.
Vaughan Gething said Public Health Wales was carrying out a detailed and forensic investigation.
They are looking into each of these cases to “discover when and how each person became infected with the South African variant strain and whether there was any evidence of wider community spread.” He said.
“In each case we’ll draw on the skills of our successful contact tracing teams to look back at where each case has been, and who they’ve been in close contact with.”
“We will also make use of the skills of Public Health Wales epidemiologists and we will also be target testing to identify any further spread.”
“We’re working around the clock to discover how these three people became infected with a South African variant, and we will do everything we can to keep people safe.” said Mr Gething.
The health minister said: “The emergence of all of these new strains, first the Kent strain, which has quickly become the dominant form of coronavirus here in Wales and now the South African and the two Brazilian variants mean it’s more important than ever that we all follow the rules, especially the basics.”
“That means keeping our distance from others, washing our hands regularly, wearing a face coverings when we’re in indoor public spaces, ensuring good ventilation indoors, staying at home as soon as we have symptoms and arrange to get a test and please ensure that you do complete your full isolation period.”
Asked what monitoring was taking place given people from Wales travel to the likes of Liverpool for work – where mass testing has got underway after cases of the new variant were found.
Mr Gething said: “We have a regular conversation with colleagues at ministerial level across all four nations between our chief medical officers and our scientific community as well.”
“There is also an exchange of information between our public health agencies.”
“I do expect information to continue to be shared to understand what is really happening and whilst people may travel for essential purposes, those are limited purposes, there should be very limited travel.”
With no clear evidence on how the three people who have tested positive for the new variant caught it, Mr Gething was asked if it could be assumed the South African variant has spread in the community?
The health minister said: “The reason why we’re doing backwards contact tracing around those three people is to answer exactly that question.”
“The fact we’ve only got a handful of cases at present suggests that there isn’t sustained community transmission in Wales of the South African variant but we need to understand what has happened with those three cases to understand how those people have got the South African variant.”
A full rerun of today’s press conference can be viewed below. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com