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South Africa’s new virus strain 50 percent more infectious: Scientists

*The South African healthcare system remains under significant strain, as the authority says the 501Y.V2 strain, identified December 2020, ‘can attach to human cells more efficiently’ than its predecessors

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

As concerns grow about the new strain of COVID-19, South African genomic scientists have found the new Coronavirus variant driving the country’s resurgence of new cases is about 50 percent more transmissible than earlier versions.

Salim Abdool Karim, Co-Chair of the country’s COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee in a presentation Monday, January 18, 2021, stated the “501Y.V2 strain” identified December 2020 “can attach to human cells more efficiently” than its predecessors.

However, Karim disclosed that data has shown the strain is not more likely to cause hospitalisation or death.

Agency report says South Africa’s COVID-19 cases started accelerating last November and the following month, scientists announced the discovery of the new mutation in the country.

Coronavirus hospitalisation in  a South African hospital

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa later introduced stricter lockdown rules, including a ban on alcohol sales and a nighttime curfew.

Meanwhile, other variants have been identified in countries, including the United Kingdom (UK) and Brazil, leading to concerns that increasingly dangerous versions of the pathogen may hamper the global roll out of vaccines and cause further economic devastation.

In South Africa, studies into the new variant’s resistance to vaccines have yet to be completed, and evidence will be provided when available, Karim said.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize also said in a presentation that the country’s second wave was far more severe than the initial one in July.

Though may have passed its peak, new case numbers have started to fall, giving some cause for optimism, said Mkhize.

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