S. Africa detects new COVID-19 variant, effects not yet clear

South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications.

The variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 22 positive cases of the new variant have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing.

“Unfortunately we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a news conference.

The variant “has a very high number of mutations”, he said. “It’s unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections,” he added.

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

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

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

Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around the middle of December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.

 

 

 

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South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications. The variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at…

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