New COVID variant detected in South Africa prompting UK travel ban

Officials announced Thursday that a new type of coronavirus discovered in South Africa is rapidly mutating and spreading among younger patients.

The new variant — which scientists have dubbed B.1.1.529 — was discovered in South Africa and Botswana and on a traveler from South Africa to Hong Kong, according to South African Health Minister Jo Pahla.

“Over the past four or five days, there’s been more exponential rise” in the swing, Bhalla said in an online news briefing on Thursday.

Health officials have expressed concern that the alternative could lead to immune evasion and greater transmission of the virus, but said it was too early to determine its effect yet.

The new variant contains a “constellation” of new mutations, according to Tulio de Oliveira, of the South African Genome Monitoring Network, who has been tasked with tracking the spread of the variant in the country. The new variant has so far more than 30 mutations.

“The very large number of mutations is a concern for expected immune evasion and transmissibility,” de Oliveira said.

Only 41 percent of the South African population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Only 41 percent of the South African population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
AP

“We can see that the variant has the potential to spread very quickly,” he said. “We expect to start to see pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks.”

Only 41 percent of South Africans have been vaccinated against the virus.

A team from the World Health Organization is set to meet on Friday to determine if the alternative is significant enough to receive a name from the Greek alphabet.

In response to the outbreak, the UK suspended travel to six countries in the region on Thursday: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended midday on Friday.

British Health Minister Sajid Javid said there were concerns that the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the currently prevalent Delta strain.

“The vaccines that we currently have may be less effective” against it, he added.

with wire

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