Tests have confirmed the presence in Zimbabwe of B.1.617, the COVID-19 variant first identified in India, the Ministry of Health says.
VP Constantino Chiwenga said in a statement today that tests conducted on samples collected after a Kwekwe outbreak linked to a Zimbabwean who returned from India in April
“Genomic sequencing test was carried out on samples collected from a reported focalised outbreak in Kwekwe which was linked to a traveller from India on the 29th of April 2021, a high risk Covid 19 transmission area,” the statement said.
“The nation is therefore advised that this variant B.1.617 is now in Zimbabwe.”
Indian variant: what we know
Zim becomes the latest of several African counties to identify the Indian variant. Other countries to confirm the variant include Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Algeria, the DRC and Nigeria.
Viruses often mutate into different variants. The Indian variant has been found to spread faster than the UK variant, according to health officials in Britain.
Vaccines used in Zimbabwe, including Sinovac and Sinopharm, have been proven to be effective against other variants, including those first detected in South Africa, the UK, and Brazil. This has given scientists hope that current vaccines will be effective against the Indian variant, although data around the India variant is incomplete, with few samples being shared.
An Oxford study reported on Monday found that the South African variant, which is dominant in Zimbabwe, is actually more resistant to vaccines than the Indian variant.
Traveling from India
Government has said people traveling from or transiting from India will be sent into mandatory quarantine at a designated quarantine centre, at their own cost.
Travelers from India will have to take a COVID19 test, even if they have a negative PCR test.
According to travel regulations, a visitor arriving in Zimbabwe must show a COVID19 test that is not older than 48 hours. Border control officials can decide to test any visitor, and that test would be paid for by the traveler.
Travelers are required to quarantine for 10 days, either at home or at a facility that they must pay for.
The government has urged Zimbabweans to get vaccinated. Over 600,000 people have now received at least the first vaccine shot on Zimbabwe.