New variants found in SA ‘not cause for concern yet’ – scientists

New variants found in SA ‘not cause for concern yet’ – scientists

The director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (Krisp), Professor Tulio de Oliveira, says there is no need to panic about new Covid-19 variants recently found in South Africa. 

Prof Salim Abdool Karim

This comes on the backdrop of the country having dealt with the potent 501Y.V2 variant, first identified in South Africa in December. 

The resurgence of cases was driven by the new variant, throwing the country into a second wave with a higher number of infections and fatalities. 

Several cities along the coastline were the hardest hit before the variant moved inland.  

Since then, the country’s leading scientists have identified more variants. 

The A23.1 variant, first discovered in Uganda this year, has been identified in the Eastern Cape, while the B1.1.7, first discovered in Europe, has now been identified in the Western Cape.  

But De Oliveira says they are not yet a cause for concern. 

“At the beginning of January, we found the first introduction of this other variant B1.1.7 and that’s the one that was discovered in the U.K and that’s cause much faster transmission however it is only one introduction and so far, doesn’t seem to have spread to the population,” he told journalists on Wednesday. 

“Last week we also reported that we found another variant called the A23.1, this is a new variant and not yet of concern. What it means, we are not so sure of how dangerous it is.” 


The world’s vaccine roll out has also intensified. 

Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are among the manufacturers leading the pack in the distribution of vaccines. 

Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 Professor Salim Abdool Karim says if vaccines are developed based on the strain capabilities of the 501Y.V2 variant then there are greater prospects the vaccines will be more effective with other variants as well. 

“If we make the next vaccine based on that, we can expect that there’s a good chance that that vaccine will elicit good immune responses that will protect people from getting 501Y.V2 and probably several of the other variants.”

Karim adds that it may take some doing. 

“All the vaccines, in my guess, will have the 501Y.V2. Not because they’re specifically worried about the virus coming from South Africa or the other countries where this virus is present but because the key mutation in the 501Y.V2 is actually also present in many other variants,” he explains.  

“So, if it works against the 501Y.V2 it will work against those as well.” 

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