World New Coronavirus Variant a ‘Serious Concern’ in South Africa

17:45  25 november  2021
17:45  25 november  2021 Source:   bloomberg.com

New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble

  New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble BRUSSELS (AP) — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is racing to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent. A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States.

(Bloomberg) -- Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant that is a cause for serious concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally.

Testaro Covid-19 Testing Sites as South Africa Battles Third Wave © Bloomberg Testaro Covid-19 Testing Sites as South Africa Battles Third Wave

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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.

Kenyan president starts 2-day state visit to South Africa

  Kenyan president starts 2-day state visit to South Africa PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has been welcomed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to start a two-day state visit to South Africa. Ramaphosa met with Kenyatta at his offices in the Union Buildings Tuesday where the two leaders held a press conference. While in South Africa Kenyatta is to visit the Aspen Pharmacare factory in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) on Wednesday to see the production of Johnson & Johnson'sRamaphosa met with Kenyatta at his offices in the Union Buildings Tuesday where the two leaders held a press conference.

“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.

The new variant is likely to have evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, Francois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said in a statement published by the Science Media Centre. The world’s biggest number of HIV cases has complicated South Africa’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as immuno-compromised people can harbor the virus for longer, scientists say.

In omicron hot spot, somber mood as S Africa faces variant

  In omicron hot spot, somber mood as S Africa faces variant PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The overcast, drizzly skies match the somber mood at the Tshwane University of Technology, a hot spot in South Africa’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases, apparently driven by the new omicron variant that is leading countries around the world to impose new restrictions. After several students tested positive, the university postponed some exams, and officials in the larger metropolitan area of Tshwane, which includes the capital of Pretoria, are pushing vaccinations, especially among younger adults who have been slow to get the shots. At TUT, as the university is known, few students wanted to speak about the new variant that has cast a pall.

Read: Covid Variants Risk Rises in S. Africa With Biggest HIV Epidemic

Fourth Wave

The findings come as several European countries battle a renewed surge in Covid-19 case numbers, with hospitals in some German cities starting to feel the strain. Governments are considering a fresh round of restrictions, largely against the unvaccinated, to try and curb the spread. South Africa is currently on the lowest level of lockdown measures, though the new variant prompted the cabinet and coronavirus council to call a meeting for the weekend.

One key difference is that while European countries have broadly got vaccination levels to a healthy majority and have moved on to booster shots, only about 35% of South African adults are fully inoculated. The health department has even asked Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer Inc. to hold off on new deliveries due to a slump in demand.

Read More: South Africa Asks J&J, Pfizer to Pause as Vaccines Pile Up

Travel restrictions by country following the Omicron variant outbreak

  Travel restrictions by country following the Omicron variant outbreak Just as many countries around the world were beginning to loosen their border restrictions, reports of a newly detected coronavirus variant in South Africa sent many of those doors slamming shut again. © Hollie Adams/Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: A covid testing centre sign at Heathrow Terminal 2 on November 28, 2021 in London, England. Following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, whose mutations suggest greater transmissibility than previous virus strains, the United Kingdom imposed new restrictions on arriving travelers.

The rest of Africa is in an even worse position, with only 6.6% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said at a virtual briefing. The challenge of securing supplies has given way to a lack of demand, with about 45% of the 403 million doses delivered to the continent yet to be administered, he said.

Rising Cases

South Africa has started to see a pick up in Covid-19 case numbers, particularly in the most-populous province of Gauteng. There were 1,275 infections recorded on Wednesday, up from less than 900 the previously day, with more than 1,000 detected in the hub that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.

While the government opted for a very strict lockdown at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, subsequent curbs have generally been driven by hospitalization rates. A prefered tactic is to ban the sale of alcohol, as it spares health centers from the burden of drink-related accidents and fights.

The outbreak of the new variant is at an early stage and studies are ongoing, but officials “do expect, unfortunately, to start seeing pressure in the healthcare system in the next few days and weeks,” De Oliveira said.

South African scientists detect new virus variant amid spike

  South African scientists detect new virus variant amid spike JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced Thursday. The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.

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How serious is omicron? It will take weeks to understand new COVID-19 variant, experts say. .
The new omicron variant presents more questions (and uncertainty) than answers. And it will take a few weeks for data to be collected and tracked.The answer to all three is an unsatisfying “We don’t know yet.

usr: 0
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