The Delta variant, first identified in India earlier this year, caused a record upsurge of COVID-19 in that country with daily cases there reaching 400,000 in May, the world’s sharpest increase in the pandemic.
On Thursday, Presidential COVID-19 Task Team scientific advisor, Dr Mogomotsi Matshaba said routine random genomic testing of 90 samples had revealed that 68% of them were the Delta variant.
“This means that it has started going up in the country,” he said in a televised address. “The Beta variant (first identified in South Africa) accounted for 80% of cases from December up to the present time and we expect Delta to rise higher. “Even the Beta variant found another variant before rising higher.
It looks like the Delta variant will be the higher one in many countries, not just Botswana,” he said. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently said the Delta variant has now been detected in more than 100 countries across the world and is expected to become the dominant strain globally.
The Delta variant’s rise is a major concern in Africa, as less than two percent of the population has been vaccinated and many of the countries are suffering budgetary constraints linked to the pandemic recession last year. In a situation report dated July 6, the WHO said preliminary research showed the Delta variant was more easily transmitted and while data on whether it caused greater hospitalisation was not yet in hand, this was likely.
Matshaba said local scientists and researchers were carefully monitoring the variant’s impact on hospitalisations and deaths in countries where it is rising faster. “What we know is that it passes faster between people and that’s how it grows,” he said.
“The protection measures have not changed, the masks still work and reducing travel still works. “That is what is important and we have to focus on these because we are still studying the variant.” He said it was difficult to gauge whether the Delta variant was deadlier because different countries had differing variables in their healthcare such as vaccination rates and resources.
“What is important is to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 in the first place,” Matshaba said. The WHO says preliminary and ongoing studies suggest the authorised vaccines globally such as Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covaxin and Covishield from the Serum Institute of India, provide various levels of protection from severe disease and hospitalisation from the Delta variant. No impact on the existing tests used such as the PCR and rapid testing have been reported concerning the Delta variant.