New Covid Variant Found in South Africa

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A new Covid variant has been found in South Africa, prompting what has been labeled as serious concern. 

Labeled B.1.1529 until it gets a colloquial name under a Greek letter like the previous strains, the latest variant carries an unusual amount of mutations. 

Scientists said that compared to other existing variations of Covid, this one is “very different,” and therefore is a mutant of “serious concern.” 

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that they had hoped the country would have more time between waves of the pandemic, and that the fourth wave would have held off until at least late December, or even January of next year. Unfortunately, it is feared that the fourth wave is now upon South Africa, and that its mutation will make this wave even worse. Around 100 cases have been linked to the strain so far. 

Scientists say that the strain is likely to have evolved during a chronic infection of someone immuno-compromised. Immuno-compromised people unfortunately tend to harbor the virus for longer. 

Of main concern of this strain is the fact that the mutations could have implications for vaccine efficacy as well as spread. 

In South Africa, only 35 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, causing more fear for how this wave will sweep across the country. The rest of Africa has even worse vaccination rates, especially when viewed as a whole for the continent, with only 6.6 percent of the continent now fully inoculated. 

In neighboring country Botswana, the variant has also been detected, including among vaccinated people.

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