New Covid-19 variant detected in SA

A new Covid-19 variant has been detected in South Africa.

The Variant B.1.1529 has been found in Botswana and Hong Kong and has an extremely high number of mutations.

At this stage, experts say they are unsure if the current programme of Covid vaccines in the country will work the new variant.

According to Professor Alex van den Heever of the Wits School of Governance, it is still early days, so the question is out on whether this variant escapes the current vaccines in SA.

“It is worrying that such a variant has occurred, but I think it is also inevitable in a way that we are going to see this. The real question is whether past variants and vaccines will still protect us against this particular variant. And I haven’t really seen any analysis of that yet,” he said.

He added that SA is keeping a close watch on new variants in the genomic analysis.

“The question also is whether or not this particular variant is going to be more infectious than, for instance, the Delta variant, and therefore might actually spread very quickly. We don’t know,” he said.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases, earlier this week, reported a spike in Covid-19 cases in Gauteng, more especially in the Tshwane region.

NICD acting executive director, Prof Adian Puren, said they had observed an increase in the seven-day moving average of new Covid cases, and the percentage testing positive in Gauteng, particularly in Tshwane among 10 to 29 age group over the past week.

It has also identified a cluster among the 20 to 44 age group at an institute of higher education in Tshwane.

Puren said the NICD was monitoring the trends to see if these increases persist.

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