‘Serious concern’ as South Africa detects new coronavirus variant coronavirus pandemic news

South African Health Minister Joe Fahla says the version is behind the ‘exponential’ increase in COVID infections.



A small number of South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant and are working to understand its potential effects.

Scientists told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the variants – called b.1.1.1.529 – have a “very unusual constellation” of mutations that are related because they evade the body’s immune response and make it more difficult to detect. can help make it permeable.



The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that 22 new positive cases have been reported in the country after genomic sequencing.

“Unfortunately we have detected a new variant that is a cause for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira said at a news conference.



“The version has a very high number of mutations”, he said. “This is unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections,” he said.

It has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, he said.



Health Minister Joe Fahla said the version was of “grave concern” and made it “a major threat”, on the back of an “exponential” increase in reported cases.

Daily infections rose to more than 1,200 on Wednesday, up from nearly 100 earlier this month.

Before the new version was detected, officials had predicted a fourth wave in South Africa starting in mid-December, fueled by travel ahead of the festive season.

The NICD said in a statement on Thursday that cases have been detected in the country’s three provinces, including Gauteng, and the percentage of positive tests “is increasing rapidly”, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The NICD said a cluster outbreak was recently identified at a higher education institution in the capital, Pretoria.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all installed monitoring systems to understand the new version and what the potential impacts may be,” it said.

Since the start of the pandemic, South Africa has recorded nearly 2.95 million cases of COVID-19, of which 89,657 are fatal.

ten mutations

The new B.1.1.1.529 version has at least 10 mutations, compared to two for delta or three for beta, the scientists said.

“What gives us some concerns[is]that this variant not only has increased transmittance, so spread more efficiently, but may also be able to gain protection in certain parts of the immune system and our immune system.” ,” said researcher Richard Lessels.

So far the variant has been seen spreading especially among the youth.

But the coming days and weeks will be crucial for determining the severity of the variant, Lessels said.

South Africa has requested an urgent meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) working group on the evolution of the virus on Friday to discuss the new version.

Health Minister Fahla said it was too early to say whether the government would impose stricter restrictions in response to the version.

South Africa was the first country to explore the beta version last year.

Beta is one of only four labeled “of concern” by the WHO because there is evidence that it is more contagious and that vaccines work less against it.

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