(Bloomberg) — Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant of concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally.
The new discovery, called B.1.1529 until a Greek letter is assigned, carries an unusually large number of mutations and is “clearly very different” from previous incarnations, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities, said at a briefing on Thursday.
“Here is a mutation variant of serious concern,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at the same media event. “We were hopeful that we might have a longer break in between waves — possibly that it would hold off to late December or even next year January.”
Virologists have detected almost 100 cases linked to the variant in the country to date, said Anne von Gottberg, clinical microbiologist & head of respiratory diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. World Health Organization officials have met to discuss the virus, which has also been detected in Botswana, according to a separate statement.
In Botswana — a neighbor of the South Africa — the new variant has been detected in vaccinated people, Kereng Masupu, coordinator of the Presidential Covid-19 Task Force, said in statement.
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