What do we know about the new COVID strain found in South Africa? | Coronavirus pandemic news

A sort of New COVID-19 variant The large number of mutations discovered in South Africa has caused concern among scientists and has triggered travel restrictions in many countries due to fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD) said that after genome sequencing, the country has recorded 22 positive cases of the new variant. News of the announcement broke out on Thursday.

South Africa’s Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla (Joe Phaahla) said this variation is responsible for the “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it a “major threat”.

How much do we know about the new variants?

Scientists say that the new COVID-19 variant, called B.1.1.529, has a very unusual series of mutations, which is worrying because they can help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

South African scientists have detected more than 30 mutations in the spike protein, which is part of the virus and helps to create an entry point for the coronavirus to infect human cells.

Tulio de Oliveira, head of KwaZulu-Natal’s research and innovative sequencing platform, said that this variant confuses experts. “It has made a big leap in evolution, with far more mutations than we expected,” De Oliveira said.

In contrast, Beta and Delta variant There are three and two mutations respectively.The latter originated in India and caused The devastating second wave last year.

“The good news is that it can be detected by a PCR test,” de Oliveira added.

These mutations are associated with increased antibody resistance, which makes the virus more infectious.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “closely monitoring” the reported variant and is expected to meet on Friday to determine whether it should be designated as an “interest” or “concern” variant.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective against the new variants?

COVID-19 vaccine It is based on the original coronavirus spike protein, which has raised concerns that the new and significantly different spike protein may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Maria Van Kerkhove, head of emerging and zoonotic diseases at WHO, said on Thursday, “The worry is that when you have so many mutations, it may have an impact on the behavior of the virus.”

“It will take us several weeks to understand the impact of this variant on any potential vaccines,” Van Kerkhove added.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, any new variant that can evade the vaccine or spread faster than the now dominant Delta variant could pose a major threat.

But Professor Helen Reis of the WHO African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group urged people not to panic.

“[Currently] We are working to determine how widespread this situation is. There will be a lot of work looking at: Is it more communicative? Is it related to any more serious diseases? Will it reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine? “Reese told Al Jazeera.

She added: “At the same time, in terms of vaccination in Africa, our biggest requirement of the world is to bring the vaccine to the region, because we know that the mutation will not stay in one country.”

Detection and response

The variant has spread rapidly in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, which is home to the economic center of Johannesburg and the capital of Pretoria.

A total of about 50 confirmed cases have been found in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana. Confirmed cases in Botswana and Hong Kong were found among travelers from South Africa.

In response, the UK has banned all travel from the country and five other southern African countries, namely Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe from noon local time on Friday.

Israel also announced on Thursday that its citizens are banned from traveling to South Africa. It also included Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini on its top-risk travel list.

The EU executive proposed to stop air travel from southern Africa in response to the spread of the new variant.

Has the infection rate increased?

Since the beginning of this month, the number of daily infections in Africa, the worst-hit country, has increased tenfold.

NICD stated that the number of detected cases and the percentage of positive tests in the country’s three provinces (including Gauteng) are “rapidly increasing.”

Although some scientists suspect this may be the cause, the NICD has not attributed the latest resurgence to new variants.

The number of daily infections in the country reached 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier this month.

Before the new variant is detected, the authorities predict that the fourth wave will hit South Africa before the holiday season, starting approximately in mid-December.

South Africa has the largest number of pandemics in Africa, with approximately 2.95 million cases, of which 89,657 have died.

Last year, a Beta variant of the virus first appeared in South Africa, although until now its number of infections has been driven by Delta.

Approximately 41% of adults received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 35% of adults were fully vaccinated. These figures are much higher than the 6.6% average number of people vaccinated in the mainland.

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