A new Corona strain in South Africa .. What do we know about it?
Scientists announced today, Thursday, the discovery of a new mutant of Covid-19 that may be highly contagious in South Africa, the African country most affected by the epidemic, which is witnessing a new rise in the number of infections.
Virologist Tulio de Oliveira said in a virtual press conference and was supervised by the Ministry of Health, “Unfortunately, we have discovered a new worrying mutant in South Africa (..) The mutant “B.1.1.529” (B.1.1.529) shows a very high number of infections. Mutations, and they have the potential to spread very quickly.”
His team from the Crisp Research Institute, backed by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, discovered the highly contagious beta mutant last year.
Mutations of the initial virus can make it more transmissible to the point where it becomes dominant, and this was the case with the delta mutant discovered in India, which – according to the World Health Organization – reduced the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid-19 by 40%.
At this point, these scientists are ignorant of whether the currently available vaccines are effective against the new mutation they have discovered.
For his part, Professor Richard Lessels, another researcher at the institute, said: “Our concern is that this mutant may not only have the ability to transmit faster, but also be able to damage parts of our immune system.”
So far, 22 cases of this new mutation have been reported, and most of them are young men, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. Other infections with this mutation were recorded in neighboring Botswana and Hong Kong in a person who returned from a trip from South Africa.
The World Health Organization is scheduled to meet tomorrow, Friday, to determine the severity of this mutation. “There are many variants, but some of them do not affect the development of the epidemic,” John Nkengasong of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a press conference.
The institute confirmed in a statement that “the number of detected infections and the percentage of positive tests is increasing rapidly,” especially in the largest province of Gauteng in terms of population, which includes Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Scientists warned that health facilities expect a new wave of patients in the coming days or weeks.
South Africa, the country most affected by the virus on the continent, has been witnessing an additional rise in the number of infections for weeks.
It is possible that this new mutation caused an upward spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, according to Health Minister Joe Vahla, who attended the press conference.
The emergence of this new mutant, he added, “reinforces the fact that this invisible enemy we are dealing with is unpredictable.”
South Africa is the most affected in the African continent by the epidemic, with more than 2.9 million injuries and 89,600 deaths. Yesterday, Wednesday, more than 1,200 new infections were recorded within 24 hours, compared to 100 at the beginning of the month. The authorities fear another wave of the epidemic by the end of the year.
So far, only 35% of eligible adults have been fully immunized.
Globally, Europe is once again the epicenter of the epidemic. Austria recently re-imposed closure measures, and France announced the strengthening of health measures, at a time when the number of deaths in Germany exceeded the threshold of one hundred thousand deaths.
In total, the virus has killed more than 5.16 million people worldwide since the end of 2019 when it was discovered in China.