A new coronaviruses variant has been detected in South Africa, which scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country s most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Thursday.
Many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often die out because of the coronaviruses. It takes time to figure out whether a new variant will have a public health impact, but scientists are looking at possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly.
In an online press conference, Phaahla said that South Africa has seen a dramatic rise in new infections.
He said that the new variant appears to be driving the spike in cases over the last four or five days, and that there has been an exponential rise over the last four or five days. Scientists in South Africa are trying to determine what percentage of new cases have been caused by the new variant.
B. is currently identified as it. The new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, he said.
The technical working group of the World Health Organization is scheduled to meet Friday to assess the new variant and decide whether or not to give it a name from the Greek alphabet.
The British government has imposed a ban on flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there were concerns that the new variant may be more transmissible than the dominant delta strain, and the vaccines we currently have may be less effective against it.
The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa said the new variant has a constellation of new mutations, and that it has been monitored by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in the country.
The very high number of mutations is a concern for the predicted immune evasion and transmissibility, said de Oliveira.
He said that this new variant has many more mutations, including more than 30 to the spike protein that affects transmissibility. We can see that the variant is potentially spreading very fast. We do expect to see pressure in the healthcare system over the next few days and weeks. De Oliveira said a team of scientists from seven South African universities are studying the variant. He said they have 100 whole genomes of it and expect to have many more in the next few days.
He said that we are concerned by the jump in evolution in this variant. He said that it can be detected by a PCR test.
After a period of relatively low transmission in which South Africa only recorded just over 200 new confirmed cases per day, the daily new cases increased to more than 1,200 on Wednesday. They jumped to 2,465.
The first surge occurred in Pretoria and the surrounding Tshwane metropolitan area, and appeared to be cluster outbreaks from student gatherings at universities in the area, said health minister Phaahla. The new variant was discovered with genomic sequencing, due to the rise in cases.
Ravindra Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge said that this is a variant that we must be very serious about. It has a high number of spike mutations that could affect the immune response and transmissibility. Gupta said scientists in South Africa need time to determine if the surge in new cases is attributable to the new variant. There is a high probability that this is the case, he said. South African scientists have done an incredible job of identifying this quickly and bringing it to the world's attention. South African officials had warned that a new resurgence would be expected from mid-December to early January, and had hoped to prepare for that by getting many more people vaccinated, said Phaahla.
Nearly 41% of South Africa's adults have been vaccinated and the number of shots being given per day is relatively low, at less than 130,000, a lot less than the government's target of 300,000 per day.
South Africa currently has about 16.5 million vaccines from Pfizer and Johnson Johnson in the country and expects to deliver about 2.5 million more in the next week, according to Nicholas Crisp, acting director-general of the national health department.
Crisp said that we are getting vaccines faster than we are using them at the moment. We have been deferring deliveries for some time, not decreasing orders, but just deferring our deliveries so that we don't accumulate and stock vaccines. South Africa, with a population of 60 million, has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID 19 cases, including more than 89,000 deaths.
The delta variant is the most infectious variant and has surpassed other once-worrying variants, including alpha, beta and mu. More than 99% of the sequences submitted by countries worldwide to the world's largest public database are delta.