As the UK battles a new COVID-19 strain that's up to 70 per cent transmissible, reports of another COVID-19 strain that spreads more swiftly have caused panic in the British country. This new coronavirus strain has reportedly originated from South Africa, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
"This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK," he told AFP.
The South African Health Department has said a new genetic mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus had been found and is likely to be responsible for a recent uptick in cases there. Country's Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the new SARS-CoV-2 variant is termed as 501.V2.
Latest developments so far:
- South African Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the new COVID-19 strain has three mutations and has spread in South Africa. The first case of this COVID-19 mutant was reported in Nelson Mandela Bay.
- The variant was discovered in the Eastern Cape and has also affected the Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal areas, ANI reported.
- The new coronavirus strain has affected many young people and those with no pre-existing health conditions.
- Dr Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases expert in South Africa, said the efficacy of existing vaccines against this variant could not be ascertained. Another red flag was the possibility of reinfection in those people who have already contracted coronavirus.
- Most mutations of the coronavirus are, however, not dangerous. Stuart Neil, a virology professor at King's College London told The Guardian that the new variant was related to 10-15 per cent cases in certain areas till a few weeks ago but suddenly jumped to nearly 60 per cent.
- The officials have already informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) which, in turn, has notified researchers. "We are working with them with our SARS-CoV-2 virus evolution working group," WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said.
- Apart from UK, countries like Germany, Israel, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Switzerland have announced a ban on flights from South Africa. Germany was among the first nations to announce this ban.
- Israel has said all its citizens returning from South Africa will have to undergo a mandatory quarantine of 30 days upon their return.
- The mutation and trajectory of the new strain in the UK is being monitored by scientists at Porton Down, the country's specialist laboratory in south west England.
Edited with inputs from agencies by Mehak Agarwal