The World Health Organisation (WHO) has resolved to identify the several variants of the coronavirus causing Covid-19 using letters of the Greek alphabet.
According to the WHO, all viruses change over time. The virus causing Covid-19 continues to change into new variants, including the now dominant Delta strain, which was first detected in India. The Delta variant has been confirmed in Zimbabwe.
Lambda is the latest strain to be designated a variant of interest by the WHO, on June 14, 2021.
Variants of interest are a level lower than variants of concern, such as Delta (India), Alpha (UK), Beta (South Africa) and Gamma (Brazil).
Variants of interest have potential to cause severe illness and even death, while these outcomes have been confirmed in variants of concern.
On 7 July, 2021, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (Sabc) reported that the Lambda variant, first identified in Peru in December 2020, had been found in Zimbabwe.
The Sabc cited South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), whose acting executive director is Adrian Puren.
Asked if the Lambda variant had been detected in South Africa, Puren told the Sabc that:
“Categorically, we have not detected this particular variant. As you know in SA we have a network of laboratories both in the private and public sectors that are constantly monitoring for variants in circulation and obviously focusing on variants of interest or of concern.”
He then went on to add:
“I know it (Lambda) has been in circulation in about three other countries that include, I think, reports from Zimbabwe, Egypt.”
The chief coordinator of Zimbabwe’s national response to Covid-19, Agnes Mahomva, says the lambda variant has not been confirmed in the country.
She added that Zimbabwean scientists were in the process of doing genome sequencing to determine the variants that are currently circulating in Zimbabwe during the current wave of infections.
“The last genome sequencing was done in Kwekwe, where Delta (first detected in India) was picked.when official results are out and verified, it will be officially announced,” she said.
A spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s health ministry told Health Times that the country’s scientists had not found Lambda in local samples.
“We trust our genomic sequencing. When that case was confirmed in Kwekwe from a returnee who had arrived from India, our team of scientists went there and confirmed that it was indeed the variant from India,” Mujiri said.
“This is not something we can hide, this is Covid-19 and if we detected a new variant we will announce so that our people know what they are dealing with.”
The Lambda variant has not been confirmed in Zimbabwe, contrary to the Sabc’s report.