New COVID variant detected in South Africa ahead of festive season

South African scientists on Thursday (25 November 2021) were baffled when a new variant of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected. The newly discovered variant called B.1.1.529 is said to be highly transmissible and can evade the body’s natural immune response. It is not yet known if the current range of available vaccines are effective against this new discovery.

22 positive cases have been reported in “mainly young patients in Gauteng”.

The new variant “has a very high number of mutations” and was also detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa, reports Al Jazeera. 

SA Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the new variant was of “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”. Phaahla said it was too early to say whether the government would impose tougher restrictions in response to the discovery.

Daily infections jumped to more than 1,200 on Wednesday, up from about 100 earlier this month.

Professor Helen Rees, of the World Health Organization’s African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group, urged people not to panic but to ensure that they are vaccinated.

Britain has since banned all flights to and from South Africa, a move International Relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor says is premature and will damage tourism and business activity.

Source: Al Jazeera


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