New Covid variant: 6-point compilation of what we know so far
South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced on November 25 that a new Covid variant has been detected in his country. The new variant, B.1.1529, is being called the worst variant so far.
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South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced on November 25 a new Covid variant has been detected in his country. The new variant, B.1.1529, has been detected in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.
Phaahla said, "Initially it looked like some cluster outbreaks, but from yesterday, the indication came from our scientists from the Network of Genomic Surveillance that they were observing a new variant." The variant is spreading in the Gauteng province, which contains South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg.
Photo for representation: Getty Images
Here is what we know about the new Covid variant and how countries are responding to it:
1. The new variant is reportedly able to mutate to a significantly high number. South African scientists have been able to detect 30 mutations to the spike protein (the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body). This could have an effect on the vaccine effectiveness and transmissibility. South African scientists have been able to confirm 10 cases in Botswana, and that there are 50 mutations overall of the variant.
2. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19 said in a Q&A that the virus evolution working group will soon be deciding if the new variant will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern. After this decision, the WHO would assign the variant a Greek name.
3. The UK has temporarily suspended all flights to Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
COVID-19 UPDATE:@UKHSA is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we're taking precautions now.From noon tomorrow six African countries will be added to the red list, flights will be temporarily banned, and UK travellers must quarantine.— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 25, 2021
4. The Union Health Ministry of India has directed states and Union Territories to perform “rigorous screening and testing” of all international travellers landing in India from countries where the new variant has been detected.
Photo: Getty Images
5. The Australian government has said that it has begun to investigate the new variant. The government has also warned of its possibility to close borders to travellers from the African nations if risks from the new strain rise.
Worth emphasising this is at super low numbers right now in a region of Africa that is fairly well sampled, however it very very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile (would take a guess that this would be worse antigenically than nearly anything else about)— Tom Peacock (@PeacockFlu) November 23, 2021