November 25. The U.K. added six African countries to its travel quarantine list on Thursday after a new, potentially more-transmissible variant of Covid-19 was identified there. The BBC said the countries are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Twenty-two positive cases of the variant, which is being called B.1.1.529, have been recorded in South Africa, according to multiple reports. Some 59 cases have been detected worldwide, and only in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana. But some experts are concerned.
“This variant did surprise us,” Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform told the New York Times. “It has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta [variant].”
“We don’t know very much about this yet,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid, said in a livestreamed Q&A on social media. “What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves.”
The new variant has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, which raises fears of increased transmissibility, according to a South African researcher cited by the Times. The new variant has 10 mutations alone on the ACE2 receptor, which helps the virus to enter cells. That’s five times more mutations on that structure than the Delta variant exhibits, according to the researcher.
In Botswana, the health ministry confirmed four cases of B.1.1.529 were found fully vaccinated patients. The single case in Hong Kong was carried there by a traveler from South Africa, according to multiple reports.
Source: Dead Line