WATCH | Schooled! Prof Salim Abdool Karim tells the world to stop calling it ‘the SA variant’ of Covid-19

05 February 2021 - 10:00
Prof Salim Abdool Karim has gone viral for telling the world to stop calling a new Covid-19 variant the "SA variant”.
Prof Salim Abdool Karim has gone viral for telling the world to stop calling a new Covid-19 variant the "SA variant”.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

A video clip of Prof Salim Abdool Karim has gone viral after he told other countries to stop referring to a new Covid-19 variant as the “SA variant”. 

The co-chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) made the plea during an interview on CNN this week, saying the Covid-19 variant 501Y.V2 was not a SA variant but a strain that emerged in the country.

Abdool Karim said referring to 501Y.V2 as the “SA variant” was inappropriate.

“I should point out that even though the virus in this particular variant was first described in SA, it might not have emanated from SA. It's inappropriate to call it a SA variant. It’s better to call it by its name,” he said.

The variant first discovered in the Eastern Cape was found to be more infectious than the original virus and has since been detected in at least 30 other countries.

Earlier this week, 11 people in different regions of England tested positive for 501Y.V2 without having any links to people who have travelled recently, prompting mass testing in the areas to contain the outbreak.

TimesLIVE reported the UK government started testing people in eight areas of England, regardless of symptoms, in an effort to find and eliminate the variant.

Last month, SA and international scientists pleaded with the world to stop labelling 501Y.V2 the SA variant, saying it was unjust and damaging.

Prof Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KZN Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (Krisp), said: “Health ministries across the world have said SA has the worst variant in the world, and they associate our country with the name of the variant. It could easily have emerged elsewhere but it's only thanks to our excellent genomic surveillance here in SA that we know more about it.”


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