A new type of coronavirus that causes Covid-19, called B.1.1.529, has been identified in South Africa and the authorities in that country have warned that it is of concern. They fear the new strain could trigger clashes in many countries, putting the health of citizens, vaccine protections and efforts to reopen economies and borders at stake. The earthquake in the markets is epic. This is what is known so far:
1. What is the difference in this alternative?
Scientists say it has a large number of mutations in the spike protein (escalate, in lingo), which plays a key role in the virus entering the cells of the body. It is also the target of vaccines. Researchers are still trying to determine whether it is more transmissible or more lethal than previous versions.
2. Where did it come from?
At the moment there is only speculation. It likely developed during a chronic infection in an immunosuppressed person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient, a scientist at the London Institute of Genetics said. South Africa has 8.2 million people living with HIV, the highest number in the world. The beta variant, a mutation identified last year in South Africa, can come from a person with HIV.
3. What is the duration?
As of Thursday, nearly 100 cases had been detected in South Africa, where the strain has become the dominant one among the newly infected. The first results of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests showed 90% of the 1,100 new cases reported Wednesday in a South African province that Johannesburg was caused by the new variant, according to Tulio de Oliveira, a professor of bioinformatics who heads the genetic sequencing institutions at Two. South African universities. And in neighboring Botswana, on Monday, the authorities recorded four cases of fully vaccinated people. In Hong Kong, a South African traveler contracted the infection and another case was identified in a person quarantined in a hotel.
This new variant (so far called B.1.1.529) appears to be spreading very quickly. In less than two weeks, it has already controlled all infections after the devastating wave of the delta variable in South Africa. The disease accounts for 75% of new infections and will soon reach 100%, according to experts.
4 What was the reaction?
News of the new alternative sent markets faltering on Friday, and tourism values in Asia, as investors anticipate the negative impact it will have on travel. The yen, usually considered a safe haven asset, gained 0.6% against the dollar, while the South African rand fell to its lowest level in a year.
The United Kingdom has temporarily banned flights from seven African countries, and others have followed suit, with Singapore imposing entry restrictions on people who have visited South Africa and neighboring countries in the past 14 days. The European Union also expected that it would take similar measures.
Australia said it did not rule out tightening border regulations for travelers from Africa if the situation worsened, while India banned travelers from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
5 How worried?
It’s too early to say that. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there are fewer than 100 complete genome sequences for the new variant, which may increase the time needed to study it, as well as the effectiveness of current vaccines against it. Viruses are constantly mutating, and changes sometimes make the virus weaker, weaker, or more adept at evading antibodies and infecting people.
6. What should we keep in mind next?
The World Health Organization has called a meeting on Friday to discuss B.1.1.529 and decide whether it has been formally designated as a variable of interest or concern. If you do, you will receive a name with the Greek letter within the WHO naming scheme.
“Future teen idol. Hardcore twitter trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble travel evangelist.”