Friday, August 12 2022

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A severe variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa, which could explain the rapid spread of a second wave affecting young people, the health minister said on Friday.

Known as the 501.V2 variant, it has been identified by South African researchers and details have been sent to the World Health Organization, Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement.

A team led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Sequencing and Innovation Platform (KRISP), has sequenced hundreds of virus samples since the start of the pandemic and “noted that one particular variant was increasingly dominating plus results from samples collected over the past two months,” he added.

South African doctors have pointed out that more patients are younger and don’t always have other conditions that amplify the effect of the virus, but still suffer from more severe forms of COVID-19.

This “strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is driven by this new variant,” Mkhize concluded.

A worker disinfects the handrails of an escalator at a shopping center in Johannesburg, Dec. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

The research team, led by Tulio de Oliveira, shared their findings with the scientific community and alerted UK authorities, who “studied their own samples and discovered that a similar mutation…was the variant that was causing of their resurgence in London”. he said.

Variants of the coronavirus have been regularly identified and brought to the attention of global health authorities.

The South African Minister of Health reiterated that the most effective way to fight back is to practice social distancing, wear masks and wash hands regularly.

South Africa has been hit harder by the coronavirus than other countries on the continent and as of Friday had recorded 24,845 deaths and more than 900,000 cases among a population of nearly 60 million.

More than 8,700 cases have been detected there in the past 24 hours, still well below the peak of around 12,000 a day seen in July.

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