International Concern Over A New Covid Variant in Africa’s Heavily Muted Strain

UPDATED with WHO News: After a potentially more-transmissible Covid-19 variant was discovered in the UK, six African countries were added to the U.K.’s travel quarantine. According to the BBC, these countries include South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Multiple reports have indicated that there were 22 positive cases of this variant in South Africa. There have been 59 confirmed cases worldwide. These were found only in South Africa and Botswana. Some experts are still concerned.

“This variant did surprise us,”Tulio De Oliveira is the director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform Telled The New York Times. “It has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta [variant].”

Friday’s special meeting of the World Health Organization will be held to discuss the new variant, and the implications it may have for Covid vaccines and treatment.

“We don’t know very much about this yet,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said in a livestreamed Q&A on social media. “What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves.”

The UK Health Security Agency is also keeping an eye on B.1.1.529.

According to a South African researcher, the new variant contains more than 30 mutations in spike protein, raising concerns about increased transmissibility. Times. The new variant only has 10 mutations in the ACE2 receptor that allows the virus into cells. That’s five times more mutations on that structure than the Delta variant exhibits, according to the researcher.

Four cases of B.1.1.529 in Botswana were confirmed by the health ministry. They were all fully vaccinated. Multiple reports claim that the single case in Hong Kong was brought by a South African traveler.

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in Make a statement today that “detected cases and percent testing positive are both increasing quickly, particularly in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo [provinces]. Seventy-one percent of new cases today are from Gauteng, which accounts for about 25% of the country’s population, said the statement. Gauteng has a high rate of cases and a positive test result is at 31.7%. For comparison, in California it’s under 2%.

“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,”Professor Adrian Puren is the acting executive director at NICD.

Erik Pedersen contributed to the report.

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