Scientists in South Africa are warning of a new strain of COVID-19. The variant, which is yet to be named, appears to have a high number of mutations, and there’s a possibility it could be able to evade our immune response and be even more transmissible.
At first, health officials thought they were seeing a small cluster of outbreaks in South Africa’s most populous province. But after examining specimens, they realized they were dealing with something far more serious – a new variant that could be the hardest yet to contain.
Officials are worried that the new variant, known simply as B.1.1.529, could quickly spread through the country and beyond. Only about 35% of adults in South Africa are fully vaccinated, and the rate of vaccination has slowed. And given the findings so far, even current vaccines may not be enough to stop it.
Several countries, including the UK and Germany have announced a ban on flights from South Africa and five neighboring countries as cases of the new variant have already appeared in Botswana and in Hong Kong.
No matter where the variant started, it could quickly become a global problem.