Scientists in South Africa warn that a new COVID-19 variant may show immune evasion and increased transmittance

0
10

“Initially it looked like a few cluster outbreaks, but since yesterday, our scientists from the network of genomic surveillance indicated that they were seeing a new variant,” Health Minister Joe Fahla said. — currently dubbed b.1.1.1.529 — first emerged.

Fahla said it has so far been found in a traveler traveling from South Africa, Botswana and South Africa to Hong Kong.

During a news briefing, genomic scientists said Variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with over 30 key spike protein – The structure that viruses use to enter the cells they attack.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation, said the variant has “many more mutations than we expected,” adding that it is “spreading very rapidly and we expect to see pressure in the health system in the next few years.” ” A few days and weeks.”

He advised the public to “try to avoid super-spreading incidents”.

Officials also expressed concerns that the mutation could result in immune evasion and increased communicability of the virus, but it is too early to say what kind of effect the mutation will have on vaccine efficacy. Officials said that more studies need to be done to understand the clinical severity of the variants as compared to the previous variants.

“The full significance of this variant remains uncertain and we still have the best equipment vaccines,” de Oliveira said. He added that laboratory studies still need to be done to test the vaccine and antibody evasion.

UK bans flights to 6 African countries

Also on Thursday, UK officials announced that six African countries would be added to England’s travel “red list” after the UK’s Health Protection Agency expressed concerns over the variant.

UK Health Minister Sajid Javid said flights to the UK from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from Friday afternoon and all six countries will be added to the red list – meaning UK residents And British and Irish citizens will be required to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense upon arrival home from those points of departure.

“The UKHSA is investigating a newer version. More data is needed, but we are taking precautions for now,” Javid said. delta tension And that “the vaccines we currently have may be less effective.”

Javid said the UK had so far “not detected any of this new version” in the country.

On Friday, South African officials will inform the World Health Organization, which has classified B.1.1.529 as a “Version Under Monitoring”.

South Africa, like most of the region, is faced three significant covid-19 waves since the start of the pandemic. While the number of new infections nationwide is still relatively low and the positivity level is less than 5%, public health officials have already predicted a fourth wave due to the slow progress of the vaccine.

CNN’s Duterte Mendonca contributed to this report.

,