South African scientists have detected a new variant of COVID- 19 in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases NICD said on Thursday.
The NICD said in a statement that 22 cases of variant B were reported. Following genomic sequencing, 529 had been recorded.
The statement quoted the NICD's professor Adrian Puren as saying that the data is limited and that our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be.
South Africa was the first country to detect the Beta variant last year. Beta is one of only four identified as being of concern by the World Health Organization because it is more transmissible and vaccines work less well against it.
The country detected a variant, C. 1.2, earlier this year, but it has not displaced the more common Delta variant and only accounts for a relatively small percentage of genomes that have been sequenced.