Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, several new variants have been breaking out. As explained by the World Health Organization, all viruses – SARS-CoV-2 included, the Covid-19 virus – “change over time”. “Most viral mutations have little to no impact on the virus’s ability to cause infections and disease. But, some mutations can affect the virus’s ability and for instance influence on the ease it has to spread, the severity of the disease it leads to or the effectiveness of vaccines”, WHO specifies. This is the case with the Alpha (initially found in Great-Britain), Beta (initially found in South Africa) and Delta (initially found in India) variants.
This Thursday November 25, 2021, we are told a new Covid-19 variant has been spotted in South Africa. “Unfortunately, we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a press brief.
Scientifically called “B.1.1.529”, this new variant concerns because it has an “extremely high” number of mutations, according to South-African scientists who originally found the Beta variant. As for the country’s health minister Joe Phaahla, he considers this new variant is undoubtedly at the origin of the “exponential” growth in new Covid-19 cases recorded over the past weeks in South Africa.
The question is if this “extremely high” number of mutations of the “B.1.1.529” variant is likely to jeopardize the effectiveness of vaccines available to date.
To date, the new variant is said to have been detected in Botswana, as well as Hong Kong, after a traveler returned from South Africa.