Andrew Kathindi

Health and Social Services (MoHSS) Minsiter, Kalumbi Shangula, has revealed that Namibia has uncovered another COVID-19 variant.

According to the Minister, the discovery is of a United Kingdom (UK) variant of the virus.“The Variant of Concern, B.1.1.7 initially discovered in the UK was detected in three of the samples analysed.”In March this year, the Minister confirmed the presence of the 501.V2, a variant that was discovered in South Africa last year.

The Minister in December last year suspected the presence of the variant in the country; however, his fears were only confirmed when delayed samples sent to South Africa for genome sequencing were returned.

“Genome sequencing conducted at Unam indicate that the Variant of Concern (VOC), initially discovered in South Africa (B.1.351), is present in 60 percent of the samples analysed in February.”

VOC is the designation of the initial assessment of a newly emerged variant of a virus. A number of the regulations meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, which are expiring on 30 April, have been extended to 31 May.

This includes the curfew which remains in place from 10pm until 4am. The limit on public gathering remains at 100 persons, both for indoor and outdoor gathering as per the current regulations. Measures related to education remain unchanged.

“Correct and mandatory wearing of masks remains part of the response. However, enforcement of compliance must be strengthened, with the involvement of community leaders, traditional leaders, religious leaders and law enforcement officers.”

This comes as Namibia has thus far recorded 48 177 cases of COVID-19 with 638 deaths reported.

Namibia is currently in the process of importing the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as it seeks to bolster its on-going vaccination campaign.