The Health Minister of South Africa calls the new Corona variant, which is currently rampant in the country, a “major threat”. In addition to the increased transferability, there is another factor that could make it dangerous.
The spread of a new variant of the coronavirus in southern Africa is a cause for concern. The South African Institute for Infectious Diseases NICD announced on Thursday that the first 22 cases of the new variant B.1.1.529 had been detected in South Africa. More cases are to be expected in the course of the ongoing genome analyzes. “Although the data situation is still limited, our experts are working overtime with all monitoring systems in order to understand the new variant and the possible implications associated with it.”
Health Secretary Joe Phaahla said the new variant confirms the “fact that this invisible enemy is very unpredictable”. He called on the South Africans to wear masks and keep their distance. “We also have the extra vehicle of vaccination, which will help us avoid serious illnesses including ending up in clinic or even falling victim to the virus.” The vaccinations are the decisive means of protection.
So far, the variant has also been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa. Phaahla described the variant as “seriously worrying” and as the cause of an “exponential” increase in reported cases in South Africa. It is a “great threat”.
Because of the new variants, Great Britain restricted air traffic from several countries in the region. In addition, there is a strict obligation to hotel quarantine for those arriving. The British Health Minister Sajid Javid announced on Thursday that the new regulations will affect South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.
Israel also announced immediate travel restrictions for several African countries on Thursday. South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini have been classified as “red countries” after a special consultation, said the office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
According to scientists, the new variant has at least ten mutations – in comparison with the delta variant there are only two, with beta three. “What worries us is that this variant could not only have increased transmissibility, i.e. spread more efficiently, but could also be able to bypass parts of the immune system and the protection we have in our immune system,” said the expert Richard Lessell.
The beta variant of the virus was discovered in South Africa last year. With around 2.95 million corona cases and more than 89,600 deaths, South Africa is the hardest-hit country in Africa. The vaccination campaign there has only got off to a slow start, 41 percent of citizens have received a dose so far, and 35 percent have been fully vaccinated.