New mutated Covid-19 variant in South Africa

new-mutated-covid-19-variant-in-south-africa

A newly identified coronavirus variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning that British health officials have seen as it has double the number of mutations of the Delta variant including some associated with evading immune response.

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The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that Covid-19 vaccines are based on.

It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.

Lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations resulting in greatly reduced vaccine efficacy, scientists said.

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new Covid-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, the scientists told reporters at a news conference.

South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveller from South Africa.

The UK Health Security Agency said that no cases of the variant had been detected in Britain and they were in contact with South African colleagues over their data.

The UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said all flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini are being temporarily suspended due to the new variant.

He said adding the six countries to the red list was about “being cautious and taking action and trying to protect. as best we can, our borders”.

Experts from the World Health Organisation are meeting with South African officials on Friday to assess the evolving situation in the country.

Israel restricts travel to South Africa over new variant

Israel has announced it is barring its citizens from travelling to southern Africa and banning the entry of foreigners from the region, citing the detection of the new Covid-19 variant.

South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini were added to Israel’s “red”, or highest-risk, travel list that reflects coronavirus infection rates overseas.

Israelis are banned from travelling to countries on the “red” list, unless they receive special permission from Israel’s health ministry.

In a statement announcing the measures, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said citizens of the seven southern African nations would not be eligible to enter Israel.

Israelis returning home from those countries would be required to spend between seven to 14 days in a quarantine hotel after arrival.

Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 8000 dead since the pandemic began.

Around 57 percent of Israel’s population of 9.4 million is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry.

A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began subsiding in September. But over the past two weeks the “R”, or reproduction rate of the virus, that had remained below one for two months, began climbing and has now crossed that threshold, indicating the virus could again be spreading exponentially.

– Reuters / BBC

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