Eris Covid variant on horizon

Eris Covid variant on horizon

Eris Covid variant on horizon

As the global health community raised concern over the new Covid-19 variant EG-5, also called Eris, a UCT Master’s student has found that the government failed to aptly support the elderly and young children during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified Eris as a “variant of interest”, indicating that it should be more closely watched than others because of mutations that might make it more contagious or severe.

It comes while industrial sociology Master’s student Juhi Kasan focused her research on the impact of the pandemic. Kasan said she was eager to establish how the government supported vulnerable groups.

“The Covid-19 pandemic revealed the salient role of care, both paid and unpaid, in maintaining social and economic well-being.

“However, the importance of care centres for the elderly and young children was not at all reflected in the government’s response to the pandemic, which can now be characterised as slow and, ultimately, negligent,” she said.

In her thesis, Kasan unpacked what may have contributed to this response by tracing certain normative framings around care in policy documents like the White Paper on Social Welfare.

“One of the important questions I ask is: If the family, particularly female family members, are regarded as the primary caregiver, what is the role of the government to provide additional care, and how does this approach to caregiving influence how social welfare programmes are executed?

“The government needs to start developing a concrete policy around care. We need to regard care for all persons the same way we regard physical infrastructure like roads and bridges, and the many other important themes that dominate our agendas in this country,” she said.

The Department of Social Development was approached for comment on the findings, and is expected to comment in due course.

Meanwhile, the National Department of Health said the public health risk posed by the Eris variant was evaluated as low at global level.

Department spokesperson, Foster Mohale, said if any variant or lineage that was of concern was found, the public would be informed.

“At present, the majority of Omicron lineages are XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.9, which have been dominating infections in South Africa for more than six months without a major increase in severe cases or hospitalisations.

“South Africa has a robust genomics surveillance programme that continually characterises Sars-CoV-2 variants.

“As done multiple times during the pandemic, if we find any variant or lineage that is of concern, we will inform the public.

“Thus, there is no need for the public to panic,” Mohale said.

Stellenbosch University epidemiologist, Dr Jo Barnes, said although the variant has not been identified in South Africa, caution was needed as very little testing for Covid-19 was being done.

“It is without a doubt going to reach our country sooner or later.

It remains to be seen whether past Covid-19 infection or vaccination will help to protect people,” she said.

Cape Times