Ugandan officials say they’ve confirmed the first case of a COVID-19 variant that emerged in India and has contributed to that nation’s overwhelming coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of Health confirmed the presence of the B.1.617 variant on Thursday, noting that it was identified in travelers who returned from India to Kampala but they’re now watching for any evidence of community spread.
The health ministry said it is urging people to continue all COVID precautions, including masks and social distancing, and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The news comes as India reported 386,829 new cases and 3,501 deaths on Thursday, surpassing any nation’s official one-day total since the pandemic began in China in December 2019. The case count in India is believed to be underreported as the virus appears to be more transmissible and potentially more serious.
The good news, at least in early trials, is that some vaccines developed to date still offer some protection against the variant.
The African continent must remain on guard, said the head of Africa’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention during a regular weekly briefing Thursday. John Nkengasong said African health officials are watching the situation in India with total awe and disbelief, especially given how well India – with a population the size of the African continent – was managing the COVID pandemic early on.
Nkengasong said more than 20 African nations have seen UK and South African variants, but he did not report any other cases of the B.1.617 variant that, along with other factors, is causing India’s tragedy.
“It is catastrophic for the health system, for any health system,” he added. “There’s a lot we can do to prevent that scenario from happening in Africa.
Image: Africa CDC file