New COVID-19 Variant: All You Need to Know

DY365
DY365
Published: November 26,2021 11:52 AM
DY365

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The new variant was first found in South Africa at the start of this week. It has now spread to neighbouring countries, including Botswana, where it has been detected in fully vaccinated people.

November 26, 2021: A new COVID-19 variant - B.1.1.529 - has triggered concern and panic worldwide. Scientists, doctors and the World Health Organisation are worried over an alarmingly high number of mutations that might make the virus more resistant to vaccines, increase its transmissibility and lead to more severe Covid symptoms.



The new variant was first found in South Africa at the start of this week. It has now spread to neighbouring countries, including Botswana, where it has been detected in fully vaccinated people.



Two cases have also been detected in Hong Kong. The two cases were travellers arriving from parts of southern Africa.



India has already stepped up screening of passengers from these three countries. The Union Health Ministry has asked states to increase testing.



 



What is the new COVID-19 variant?



 



The new Covid variant has been named B.1.1.529. This variant carries an unusually large number of mutations. According to Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor from South Africa, this variant is "clearly very different" from previous incarnations.



How many people have been infected by the new variant?



Over 100 cases have been found to be infected by this new variant in South Africa. Several cases have been reported from neighbouring Botswana.



Two cases have been reported in Hong Kong. These were people travelling from South Africa.



Samples from the two infected people in Hong Kong returned "very high" viral loads, epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted this morning.



"PCR Ct values of 18 and 19... insanely high considering they were negative on recent PCR tests," he said. What is more worrying is that the patients were in separate rooms, suggesting the new variant is airborne.



 



Why is WHO worried? What is WHO saying about the new variant?



 



The B.1.1.529 variant has 50 mutations overall, including more than 30 on the spike protein alone. "We don't know very much about this (variant) yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's COVID-19 Technical Lead, said, underlining the importance of a complete dose of vaccination.



 



What are countries doing?



 



Most countries have increased the screening and tests of passengers coming in to their countries, particularly those coming in from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. The United Kingdom has banned flights from South Africa, Botswana and other southern African countries.