New Covid-19 variant in South Africa causes concern : NPR

A vile Pfizer vaccine is seen to be administered ahead of the launch of the VaxuMzansi National Vaccine Day campaign in South Africa on September 24, 2021.

Rajesh Jantilal / Getty Images


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Rajesh Jantilal / Getty Images


A vile Pfizer vaccine is seen to be administered ahead of the launch of the VaxuMzansi National Vaccine Day campaign in South Africa on September 24, 2021.

Rajesh Jantilal / Getty Images

Virologists rush to learn about a variant of the Covid-19 virus that was first identified in Botswana, rapidly surpassing other versions of the virus in the region of South Africa, including Johannesburg.

the variant, currently expressed in B.1.1.529, reportedly has twice as many mutations represented by the Delta variant, which became the dominant variant in most of the world over the summer.

It is not yet clear whether the mutations make this variant more contagious or whether it causes a more serious disease, but researchers say the high number of mutations in the “spike proteins” — the focus of a body’s immune response — may better enable it to get past the body’s defenses.

Despite the spread of this variant, the number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa is still well below the Delta wave earlier this year. But the numbers are starting to rise again.

Until more is known about the variant, health authorities in the UK are taking the precaution to cancel flights from the six countries in southern Africa and add them to the country’s “red list” for travelers.

The World Health Organization called an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the variant. If it is determined to be of special interest or concern, it will likely be called “Nu,” the next Greek letter in the current naming scheme.

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