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Announcement of new B.1.1.529 variant (Omicron)
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 29/11/2021

Stellenbosch University (SU) notes with concern criticism expressed mainly on social media about the announcement of the new B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant (Omicron) by SU researcher, Prof Tulio de Oliveira.

De Oliveira, a world-renowned bioinformatician and professor in Bioinformatics in the SU School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, together with the Department of Health and scientists from the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, announced the detection of a new Covid-19 virus variant in South Africa during a media briefing last Thursday (25 November 2021).

“As a leading research-intensive University in South Africa, Stellenbosch University takes its moral responsibility seriously to make known to the public and public health authorities any research findings on new variants that would ultimately be in the best interest of the public and inform measures that can be taken towards the protection of public health. Given the pandemic stage that we are in, it is our responsibility to make the broader public aware of any new variant. We have done this before and believe it is our scientific and ethical responsibility to continue to timeously share information about breakthrough variants as and when they are identified. Not making this important information public, would be irresponsible science," says Prof Eugene Cloete, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Study at SU.

Stellenbosch University remains committed to intensified compliance with proven safety and health measures, and specifically to vaccination as an indispensable tool in combatting and stemming the pandemic. There is no doubt that vaccine lowers the transmission of the virus, and that it protects people against severe sickness, hospitalisation and death. This echoes the statement by the President last night (28 November), where he urged people who are not yet vaccinated to get inoculated as soon as possible.