New Covid-19 variant detected in HK, traced to South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, 26 Nov 2021:

A new variant of coronavirus has been detected in South Africa, where infection figures are rising again, health authorities confirmed yesterday.

“Unfortunately, we have detected a new variant, which is a reason for concern in South Africa. The variant has a very high number of mutations,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira said in a press conference.

Positive cases of the new variant have also been confirmed in Hong Kong and Botswana among travellers from South Africa, according to data released by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The scientists said the new variant has more than 30 mutations, which are concerning for “predicted immune evasion and transmissibility”.

“This variant did surprise us and it has many more mutations than expected. It is spreading very fast and we expect to see pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks,” Oliveira added.

The detection of this variant comes at an early stage and the scientists are optimistic its spread will be contained.

The variant was discovered in an analysis on Nov 23 from samples taken between Nov 14 and 16 after an increase in the number of cases detected in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

So far, South Africa has recorded some 2.95 million coronavirus infections with about 90,000 deaths, making it the epicentre of the pandemic in Africa.