“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 stated, stressing that it’s presently unclear the place the variant — presently dubbed B.1.1.529 — first emerged.
It has to this point been detected in South Africa, Botswana and in a traveler to Hong Kong from South Africa, Phaahla added.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Center for Epidemic Response and Innovation, stated the variant has “many more mutations than we have expected,” including it’s “spreading very fast and we expect to see pressure in the health system in the next few days and weeks.”
He suggested the general public to “try to avoid super spreading events.”
Officials additionally expressed concern that the mutation could end in immune evasion and enhanced transmissibility of the virus, however added it’s too early to inform what sort of affect the mutations could have on vaccine efficacy. More research additionally have to be performed to grasp the scientific severity of the variant in comparison with earlier variants, officers stated.
“The full significance of this variant remains uncertain and the best tool we have is still the vaccines,” De Oliveira stated. He added that lab research nonetheless have to be carried out to check vaccine and antibody evasion.
UK bans flights from 6 African nations
Also Thursday, UK officers introduced that six African nations will likely be added to England’s journey “red list” after the UK Health Security Agency flagged concern over the variant.
UK’s Health Minister Sajid Javid stated flights to the UK from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will likely be suspended from noon Friday and all six nations will likely be added to the pink listing — which means UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving residence from these factors of departure should endure a 10-day resort quarantine at their very own expense.
Javid added the UK “hasn’t detected any of this new variant” within the nation to this point.
On Friday, South African officers will temporary the World Health Organization, which has categorized B.1.1.529 as a “variant under monitoring.”
CNN’s Duarte Mendonca contributed to this report.