‘Dangerous concern’ as South Africa discovers new variant of coronavirus | Corona virus pandemic news

South African Health Minister Joe Vahla says the alternative is behind an ‘exponential’ increase in COVID infections.

South African scientists have discovered a new type of COVID-19 in small numbers and are working to understand its possible repercussions.

Scientists told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which is of concern because it could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD) said 22 positive cases of the new variant had been recorded in the country after genetic sequencing.

“Unfortunately we have discovered a new variant and it is a cause for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a news conference.

The variant, he said, “has a very large number of mutations.” “Unfortunately, it is causing a re-emergence of the infection,” he added.

It was also discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong among South African travelers, he said.

Health Minister Joe Vahla said the surrogate was a “serious concern” and caused an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it a “significant threat”.

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

Before the new alternative was revealed, authorities had expected a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around mid-December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.

The institute said in a statement on Thursday that detected cases and the percentage of positive tests were “increasing rapidly” in three provinces of the country including Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.

A cluster outbreak was recently identified, centered at a higher education institute in the capital, Pretoria, according to the National Diabetes Institute.

“Despite the limited data, our experts are working overtime with all existing monitoring systems to understand the new variant and what the potential effects might be,” she said.

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

ten mutations

The scientists said the new variant B.1.1.529 had at least 10 mutations, compared to two for delta or three for beta.

“What we’re concerned about[is]that this variant may not only have enhanced transmissibility, so it spread more efficiently, but it might also be able to get around parts of the immune system and the protection we provide in our immune system,” researcher Richard Lessels said. .

So far the variant has been seen spreading especially among young people.

Lessels said the coming days and weeks will be key to determining the severity of the alternative.

South Africa requested an urgent session of the World Health Organization’s working group on the evolution of the virus on Friday to discuss a new alternative.

Health Minister Bahla said it was too early to say whether the government would impose stricter restrictions in response to this alternative.

South Africa was the first country to discover a beta release last year.

Beta is one of only four that the World Health Organization has classified as “of concern” because there is evidence that it is more contagious and that vaccines work less effectively against it.

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