Most of the new Covid-19 cases in South Africa are attributed to a new variant of the virus. The country’s virus strategy scientists and health officials say the new variant is dominant in the newly recorded cases, with high numbers of deaths and hospitalization.
In a briefing to journalists, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the government’s Ministerial Committee, said the new variant, called 501.V2, is spreading faster than the first wave, according to preliminary reports.
Abdool Karim further projected that the country is likely to see increased cases than was experienced in the first surge.
The previous high was recorded in August was 8300 Covid-19 hospitalized patients. However, the current surge has already hospitalized 8500 persons.
Speaking to South Africa’s News24, Professor Ian Sanne, a member of the advisory committee, says there is a much earlier and much sharper rise in the resurgence than anticipated.
The virus is mutating.
South Africa’s new strain differs from that of Britain. It is more infectious than the original virus. However, the virus shares one of the mutations seen in the British virus.
Researchers and scientists expect the virus to gain useful mutations as it becomes difficult for it to survive due to vaccinations and growing immunity in humans. Notably, these mutations may make the virus spread easily or even evade detection by the immune system. Something that is quite alarming.
However, experts emphasize that mutation is expected among viruses, and there is still no proof that this specific mutation is deadly.
Immune to Vaccines
South Africa’s scientists are studying if the already developed vaccines will be effective against the new strain of the virus.
There are concerns that the virus may become resistant to the vaccines being rolled out owing to the change in the viral genetic code, making it less vulnerable to specific antibodies.
Over the past two weeks, South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of new cases has more than doubled to 14.68 new cases per 100,000 people on 20 December, down from 6.47 new cases on 6 December.
The 7-day rolling has also recorded an increase in deaths from 0.18 deaths per 100,000 people to 0.34 deaths per 100, 000 people within the same period.
South Africa has followed Britain’s footsteps in tightening its restrictions. Britain’s Prime Minister was earlier quoted saying;
“When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense.”
Among the country’s restrictions includes limited days and hours for the trade of alcohol and closure of beaches in the hotspot area.
South Africa has so far registered 912, 477 Covid-19 cases, as well as 24,539. Health officials and experts fear that the number may increase during this festive period as people travel and visit family members.