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A new Covid-19 variant could show immune evasion and enhanced transmissibility, South African scientists warn


By David McKenzie and Ghazi Balkiz, CNN

South Africa’s health minister announced Thursday the discovery of a new coronavirus variant that appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country.

“Initially it looked like some cluster outbreaks, but from yesterday, the indication came from our scientists from the Network of Genomic Surveillance that they were observing a new variant,” Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said, stressing that it is currently unclear where the variant — currently dubbed B.1.1.529 — first emerged.

It has so far been detected in South Africa, Botswana and in a traveler to Hong Kong from South Africa, Phaahla added.

During a news briefing, genomic scientists said the variant has an unusually high number of mutations, with more than 30 in the key spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation, said the variant has “many more mutations than we have expected,” adding it is “spreading very fast and we expect to see pressure in the health system in the next few days and weeks.”

He advised the public to “try to avoid super spreading events.”

Officials also expressed concern that the mutation could result in immune evasion and enhanced transmissibility of the virus, but added it is too early to tell what kind of impact the mutations will have on vaccine efficacy. More studies also need to be conducted to understand the clinical severity of the variant compared to previous variants, officials said.

“The full significance of this variant remains uncertain and the best tool we have is still the vaccines,” De Oliveira said. He added that lab studies still need to be carried out to test vaccine and antibody evasion.

UK bans flights from 6 African countries

Also Thursday, UK officials announced that six African countries will be added to England’s travel “red list” after the UK Health Security Agency flagged concern over the variant.

UK’s Health Minister Sajid Javid said flights to the UK from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be suspended from midday Friday and all six countries will be added to the red list — meaning UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving home from those points of departure must undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

“UKHSA is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now,” Javid said, adding the variant identified in South Africa “may be more transmissible” than the Delta strain and that “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective.”

Javid added the UK “hasn’t detected any of this new variant” in the country so far.

On Friday, South African officials will brief the World Health Organization, which has classified B.1.1.529 as a “variant under monitoring.”

South Africa, like much of the region, has suffered through three significant Covid-19 waves since the pandemic’s start. While the number of new infections across the country is now still relatively low and positivity levels are under 5%, public health officials have already predicted a fourth wave because of a slow vaccine uptake.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Duarte Mendonca contributed to this report.




      1. Yep. It’s all those MAGA Botswanans causing this. If only they got vaccinated like Joe Biden said we would have been done with this. And if only they had listened to Fauci who said the vaccinated passed the disease the same as unvaccinated Botswanans we would be done with this. It’s all MAGA fault. Just ask Jussie Smollet.

  1. O’boy another varient! Oh mighty Fauci what do we do? Gimme a break! Living in Fear is not living! I have more faith in my immune system then big Pharma, Biden and the MSM! You’ve been lied to by the Fear-mongering propaganda machine aka KTVZ yep and even trusty’ol barn with all of his ” reputable links”.. If it doesnt fit the CNN narrative they will call it misinformation… They have been part of the problem since day 1…Wake up people!!!

    1. Matt and Joe’s nose ~ do you ever read the article. Or are you headline only guys.

      Only 24% of the population is vaxxed there. But you probably don’t see that as problematic.

      Viruses mutate ~ that’s a fact. This has nothing to do with politics.

      Stop with the stupid.

    2. You strike a nerve with him and the z when you put down fauci. CBS saying people needed to rapid test family members in a garage before allowing them to join the Thanksgiving shenanigans yesterday is something Barney would say was a precautionary measure. Just like Washington Post saying the SUV malfunctioned and started massacreing people in Waukesha and it wasn’t the driver’s fault and that’s why we need to outlaw gas and all buy electric is outlandish

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