Covid variant B.1.1.529 appeared in South Africa: this is what we know

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A man enters the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland on June 15, 2021.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images

The World Health Organization will meet on Friday to discuss a new highly variable variant of Covid-19.

WHO officials said that a small number of variants called B.1.1.529 were found in South Africa. South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira (Tulio de Oliveira) said at a media briefing held by the South African Ministry of Health on Thursday that the variant contains more than 30 mutations in the spike protein, which is a virus that binds to cells. Element.

This is significantly higher than the delta variant, which spread like wildfire earlier this year and became the main strain in the world. Health officials said that many of these mutations are related to increased antibody resistance, which may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine and affect the performance of the virus in terms of vaccines, treatment, and transmission.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of technology for Covid-19, said in a live Q&A that scientists “do not know much about this yet” and that it will take several weeks to fully understand the response of this variant to existing vaccines.

The UK took immediate action to ban flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from noon on Friday to 4 a.m. local time on Sunday.

The British Health Security Agency is investigating the variant, and Health Minister Sajid Javid said it “may be worrying.”No cases have been detected in the UK

The first genome of the new variant was uploaded to the international GISAID database on November 22, but the genomes of South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong have now been uploaded, and the extent of the spread is not yet clear.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a briefing on Thursday that so far, the cases have been concentrated in Gauteng, a region with a population of nearly 16 million, making it the most populous area in South Africa.

As investors scrambled to find cover, the South African Rand against the U.S. dollar plunged above 16.2 on Friday morning.

The new development emerged as the global Covid-19 cases surged into the winter, especially in many European countries where record peaks appeared and strict containment measures were implemented.


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