Johannesburg (AP) — A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa. Scientists say there are concerns in Gauteng, the country’s most populous state, due to the high number of mutations and the rapid spread among young people.
Coronaviruses evolve as they spread, and many new variants, including worrying mutations, often only die. Scientists monitor changes that can be more contagious or fatal, but it can take time to classify whether a new variant impacts public health.
In South Africa, new infections are on the rise dramatically, Fara said in an online press conference.
“We’ve seen an exponential rise over the last four to five days,” he added, adding that the new variant seems to be driving a surge in cases. South African scientists are working to determine what percentage of new cases are caused by new variants.
He said the new variant, now identified as B.1.1.529, has also been found in South African travelers Botswana and Hong Kong.
The WHO Technical Working Group may meet on Friday to evaluate new variants and decide whether to name them from Greek letters.
The new mutants have a “constellation” of new mutations, “said Trio de Oliveira, a South African genome surveillance network that tracks the spread of South African delta mutants.
“The high number of mutations is a predictable antigenic escape and transmissible concern,” said de Oliveira.
“There are far more mutations in this new variant, including more than 30 to peplomer proteins that affect infectivity,” he said. “We see that variants can spread very quickly. We expect to put pressure on the healthcare system in the coming days and weeks.”
Deolibeira said a team of scientists from seven South African universities are studying this variant. He said they have 100 whole genomes of it and expect to have more genomes in the next few days.
“We are concerned about the evolutionary leap of this variant,” he said. One of the good news is that it can be detected by PCR tests.
After a relatively low infection period, when South Africa recorded just over 200 new confirmed cases per day, the number of new daily cases increased rapidly to over 1,200 last Wednesday. On Thursday they jumped to 2,465.
The first surge occurred in Pretoria and the surrounding Tsuwane metropolitan area, which appeared to be an outbreak from a group of students at universities in the area, said Fara, Minister of Health. As the number of cases increased, scientists studied genomic sequencing and discovered new mutants.
Ravindra Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said: “There are many spike mutations that can affect transmission and immune response.”
Gupta said South African scientists need time to determine if the proliferation of new cases is due to new variants. “This is likely to be the case,” he said. “South African scientists have done an incredible job of quickly identifying this and drawing the world’s attention.”
South African officials warned that a new resurgence was expected from mid-December to early January and hoped to prepare for it by vaccination of more people, Fara said.
Approximately 41% of South African adults are vaccinated, with relatively few injections per day of less than 130,000, well below the government’s target of 300,000 injections per day.
In South Africa, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson currently receive about 16.5 million doses of the vaccine, and Nicholas Crisp, deputy director of the national health department, expects another 2.5 million doses next week. It has been.
“I’m vaccinated faster than I’m currently using,” Crisp said. “So for some time we’ve been postponing delivery rather than reducing orders, but we’ve postponed delivery so we don’t accumulate and stockpile vaccines.”
South Africa, with a population of 60 million, has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, including more than 89,000 deaths.
To date, delta variants are still the most infectious and have crowded other variants that were once worried, such as alpha, beta, and mu. More than 99% are deltas, according to sequences submitted by countries around the world to the world’s largest public database.
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