A new variant of coronavirus has been discovered in South Africa, scientists there said, adding that currently, it was found in small numbers and they are working to understand its implications.
The concerning part about this variant, called B.1.1.529, is that it has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which the scientists believe could help it evade the human body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.
The variant was detected in Gauteng province but may be present in other provinces too.
South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529. This variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case being a traveller from South Africa.
“Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be,” South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a statement.
South Africa urged the WHO to hold an urgent sitting of its working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.
The country’s health minister ruled out imposing tougher restrictions saying it was too early.
(With agencies’ inputs)