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WHO to meet on Friday to assess new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa – ET HealthWorld

WHO to meet on Friday to assess new COVID-19 variant detected in South AfricaThe World Health Organization is monitoring the new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 first detected in South Africa and can maintain a “special meeting” on Friday to focus on if the closely mutated pressure will grow to be a variant of curiosity or a variant of concern, a prime official mentioned.

The newest variant is essentially the most closely mutated model found thus far. First recognized in South Africa at first of this week, the pressure has already unfold to neighbouring nations, together with Botswana, the place it has been reportedly detected in totally vaccinated folks.

The new variant has been purple-flagged by scientists over an alarmingly excessive variety of spike mutations which may make the virus extra resistant to vaccines, enhance its transmissibility and lead to extra extreme COVID-19 signs.

“There are fewer than 100 whole genome sequences that are available. We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, that can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Lead on the WHO Maria Van Kerkhove mentioned throughout a digital Q&A session on Thursday.

She mentioned proper now the researchers had been getting collectively to perceive the place these mutations and spike protein are and what that doubtlessly could imply for COVID19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Kerkhove mentioned WHO colleagues in South Africa are planning to undertake a neutralisation research that can take a couple of weeks “for us to understand what impact this variant has on any potential vaccines.”

Emphasising that a substantial amount of work is underway on the new variant, Kerkhove mentioned the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution is discussing this with colleagues in South Africa. “We’re also meeting again tomorrow. We’re calling a special meeting to discuss this, not to cause alarm, but just because we have this system in place, we could bring these scientists together and discuss what does it mean and also can set the timeline for how long it will take for us to get those answers,” she mentioned.

“So right now, it’s a variant that is under monitoring. The TAG Virus Evolution working group will discuss if it will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern. And if that’s the case, then we will assign it a Greek name. But it is something to watch,” she mentioned.

It is “good” that some of these variants are being detected as a result of meaning there’s a system in place that’s working, Kerkhove famous.

The WHO has mentioned that solely 27 per cent of well being employees in Africa have been totally vaccinated towards COVID-19, leaving the majority of the workforce on the frontlines towards the pandemic unprotected.

After virtually 4 months of a sustained decline, COVID-19 instances in the final inhabitants in Africa have plateaued. For the primary time for the reason that third wave peak in August, instances in Southern Africa have elevated, leaping 48 per cent in the week ending on November 21 in contrast with the earlier week.

To date, greater than 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa. In 39 nations which offered information, 3.9 million doses have been given to well being employees.

“With a new surge in cases looming over Africa following the end-of-year festive season, countries must urgently speed up the rollout of vaccines to health care workers,” mentioned Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

According to the WHO, vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the previous three months. Africa has acquired 330 million doses from the COVAX Facility, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements since February 2021.

Of these 83 per cent have been delivered since August alone. As vaccine provide picks up, addressing uptake bottlenecks and accelerating rollout grow to be extra crucial.

Kerkhove mentioned that the extra the COVID-19 virus circulates, the extra alternatives the virus has to change, the extra mutations there might be.

“So, we need to drive that transmission down so that we reduce the possibility of having more variants emerge. But this is one to watch. I would say we have a concern but I think you would want us to have a concern,” she mentioned.

She famous that the WHO was monitoring not less than 30 sub-lineages of the extremely transmissible Delta variant, which can be evolving.

Against the backdrop of the new variant being detected in South Africa, Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Emergencies Programme, cautioned that there needs to be no knee-jerk responses particularly with relation to South Africa, which is selecting up attention-grabbing and essential indicators for “which we’re doing the proper risk assessment and risk management.

He said that in the past when there has been any mention of any kind of variation of the virus, everyone was “closing borders and proscribing journey”.

“It’s actually essential that we stay open, and we are going to stay centered on understanding and characterizing the issue and never punishing nations for doing excellent scientific work and really being open and clear about what they’re seeing and what they’re discovering,” Ryan said.

The WHO official said it was really important that countries like the UK and South Africa, who are openly sharing and being transparent about variants, are supported.

“If we’re going to beat this virus, we want good info. And good info will solely come when folks really feel that they might share that info with out being punished for having finished so. We haven’t totally assessed any risk or threat related to this variation. That stays to be seen and the research want to be finished,” he said.

Cautioning people that viruses evolve and there are variations, Ryan, however, added that “it is not the top of the world and the sky will not be falling in.”

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