Neighbouring South Africa has identified a new severe variant of the coronavirus could explain the rapid spread of a second wave that has been mainly affecting younger people, according to the South African health minister.
It is said that there are quite a few similarities between both the new variants found in the UK and South Africa.
“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus – currently termed 501.V2 Variant – has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” South African Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize tweeted.
He also tweeted, “The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,”
South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa – 900,000 cases and over 20,000 deaths. The increase in the number of cases made the government tighten the restriction.
Known as the 501.V2 Variant, it was identified by South African researchers and details have been sent to the World Health Organization, Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement.
The World Health Organisation confirmed on Friday that it was in touch with the South African researchers who found this new variant. The WHO added that there was no indication there were changes in the way the new virus strain was behaving.
“We are working with them with our SARS-COV-2 Virus evolution working group. They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission,” WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said at a news conference in Geneva.
The South African researchers said that the new variant seems to spread faster than the previous iteration. But it’s too early to say anything about its severity and if current vaccines will work against it.
South African doctors have remarked that more patients are younger, and do not always have other conditions that amplify the virus’ effect, but are nonetheless suffering from more severe forms of COVID-19.