The variant B.1.1.529 presents a number
extremely high mutations, and
we can see that it has a potential for very fast spread, said virologist Tulio de Oliveira, during an online press conference chaired by the Ministry of Health.
His team at the KRISP research institute, affiliated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, had already discovered the highly contagious Beta variant last year.
Metamorphosis of the initial virus can potentially make it more transmissible, to the point of making the variant dominant. This has been the case with the Delta variant, initially discovered in India and which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), reduced the effectiveness of COVID vaccines against disease transmission to 40%.
At this point, South African scientists are unsure of the effectiveness of existing COVID vaccines against the new form of the virus.
What concerns us is that this variant might not only have an increased transmission capacity, but also be able to bypass parts of our immune system., said another researcher, Professor Richard Lessells.
To date, 22 cases have been reported, and they mainly involve young people, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). Cases have also been reported in neighboring Botswana and Hong Kong, on a person returning from a trip to South Africa.
London reacts immediately
After South Africa’s announcement, the UK said it would ban entry to travelers from six African countries.
All flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana will be suspended from 12 p.m. UT on Friday, Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid said.
In addition, the UK will requesth Sunday to quarantine in hotels “,” text “:” anyone arriving from these countries from 4h Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels “}}”>anyone arriving from these countries from 4 a.m. on Sunday to quarantine themselves in hotels, said Mr. Javid. He added that those who arrive before that date will have to self-isolate and do two PCR tests on the second and eighth days of their confinement.
The number of cases is increasing rapidly
to follow closely this new variant and must meet on Friday to determine its dangerousness.
There are many variants, but some do not affect the progression of the epidemic, tempered during a press conference John Nkengasong, of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the African Union (Africa CDC).
the number of cases detected and the percentage of positive tests increasing rapidly, NICD said in a statement, particularly in the most populous province of Gauteng, which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Health structures should expect a new wave of patients in the coming days or weeks, the scientists warned.
South Africa, officially the most affected country on the continent by the virus, has seen a further rise in contamination in recent weeks. First attributed to the Delta variant, the new variant is at the origin of this increase
exponential to be present
a major threatsaid Health Minister Joe Phaahla.
The emergence of this new form
reinforces the fact that this invisible enemy we are dealing with is very unpredictable, he added.
According to scientists, the new variant B.1.1.529 has at least 10 mutations, compared to 2 for the Delta.
The concern is that when you have so many mutations it can impact how the virus behaves., said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical officer for COVID-19, during an online press briefing.
” It will take a few weeks for us to understand the impact of this variant on any potential vaccine. “
South Africa has around 2.9 million cases, resulting in 89,600 deaths. More than 1,200 new cases in 24 hours were recorded Wednesday, against a hundred at the beginning of the month.
The authorities fear a new wave of pandemic by the end of the year. Only 35% of eligible adults are fully immunized.
Globally, Europe has once again become the global epicenter of the pandemic.
The coronavirus has killed more than 5.16 million people worldwide since its appearance in China at the end of 2019. The WHO estimates that by considering the excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19, the toll of the pandemic could be two to three times higher.