SAFTU Zweli Mkhize

Former Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Photo: GCIS

‘This is not correct’: Zweli Mkhize slams UK minister for SA variant claims

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has overseen Britain’s tumultuous response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now facing the wrath of Zweli Mkhize.

SAFTU Zweli Mkhize

Former Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Photo: GCIS

The South African Government has fired back at UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, after the British politician claimed that the variant of COVID-19 initially discovered in South Africa was ‘spreading quicker than other strains’ in Blighty. Zweli Mkhize has taken exception to this suggestion, issuing a stern rebuke on Thursday.

Zweli Mkhize blasts Matt Hancock for ‘evidenceless’ claims

Mkhize didn’t beat around the bush when leading the SA response. Two people in the UK are believed to have been infected with the 501.V2 mutation, prompting the British Cabinet to institute strict travel restrictions between the two countries. The Health Minister also noted that the UK variant was ‘discovered earlier this year’.

According to Mkhize…

  • There is no evidence that the 501.V2 (SA variant) is ‘more transmissible‘ than the UK variant.
  • There is also ‘no evidence that the 501.V2 causes more severe disease’ or in-creased mortality than the UK variant.
  • It’s almost certain that the new virus variant identified in the UK ‘is already in the great majority of EU countries’.
  • The UK strain was detected ‘as early as September’ – a month ahead of South Africa’s variant.
  • Banning travel between UK and SA has been branded as ‘unfortunate’, and ‘lacking in scientific merit’.

SA Health Minister responds to ‘incorrect utterances’ on South Africa’s new COVID-19 variant

Minister Mkhize has ‘registered concerns’ with his UK counterpart, slamming Hancock for presenting incorrect information.

“We have noted the statement delivered yesterday by the Secretary for Health in the United Kingdom, Matt Hancock, and must register our concern that some of his utterances have created a perception that the COVID-19 mutation in SA has been a major factor in the second wave in the UK. This is not correct…”

“There is evidence that the UK variant developed earlier than the South African one. To give some historical context, on 14 December, the UK reported to the WHO that a mutation had been identified and traced back to 20 September 2020 in Kent, South East England – approximately a month before the South African strain appears to have developed.”

“This variant has a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African version (the 501), although they are two completely independent lineages. The UK variant is thought to be driving the second wave that the UK is experiencing currently. There is no evidence that the SA variant is more pathogenic than the UK mutation.”

Zweli Mkhize