A new COVID-19 variant has been detected in South Africa, scientists confirmed during an urgent briefing on Thursday afternoon
The variant, currently known as B.1.1.529 exhibits a large number of mutations, according to researchers. This has raised concerns about its transmissibility, severity, and potential vaccine resistance.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira said the variant had also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.
Variant has increased in Gauteng
“Early signs show that the variant has increased in Gauteng but may be present in most provinces. In South Africa we are seeing a rise in the reproductive number and this is important as it signified the start of the waves in the past, said De Oliveira.
He said the variant displays an unusual constellation of mutations.
“There are 10 mutations just at the receptor domain.
And 30 mutations in spike protein. The full significance is still uncertain and that’s what we are working on at the moment,” he told the media.
It is expected to spread very fast
“The variant did surprise us, many more mutations that we expected, especially since the severe third wave of Delta.
We can see it potentially spreading very fast.”
He warned that the health system will begin to come under strain in the coming days and weeks.
“The public need to really try to avoid superspreader events. School closures, and holidays are really a time to contain cluster outbreaks. Our best hope is that it’s not, we would like to be wrong on some of the predictions, but (sic) the work is still continuing.”
Wear masks, social distance and sanitise
The NICD’s Dr Michelle Groome said that regardless of the emergence of the new variant, the importance of nonpharmaceutical interventions remains unchanged.
“This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well-ventilated spaces. Individual compliance to preventative measures can have a great collective impact in limiting the spread of the new variant.” – Health-e News