At the end of this 2020, a final touch could not be missing to characterize this year to forget. A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in South Africa and is causing a second wave of infections. Days after the United Kingdom confirmed the detection of a new strain of the virus, on Friday the South African Health Minister confirmed the location of the variant of the virus in the area.
South Africa is experiencing an upsurge in cases and hospitalisations, as well as deaths. This has been caused by the emergence of a variant of the coronavirus. The new variant is called 501.V2 and has been detected in recent South African infections. Professor Ian Sanne, a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, says it is a new variant and not a new strain.
South African doctors noticed a greater number of young patients developing severe disease without suffering from other previous pathologies. It is more transmissible and has a stronger viral load. They also note that the new variant is likely to spread rapidly compared to the previous one. But it is still thought that it is too early to know how serious it is.
South African scientists are investigating whether this variant can be treated with the newly discovered vaccines in COVID-19. According to the chairman of the ministerial committee of the government council, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the new type of virus is the most dominant in the new wave of infections.
Zweli Mkhize, South Africa's Minister of Health, has reported via Twiter that "a variant of SARS-COV-2, currently called 501.V2, has been identified by our genome scientists here in South Africa". It is driving the second wave that the country is experiencing.
New restrictions were decreed on December 14 to try to control the spread of the second wave of COVID-19. Large numbers of infections have occurred in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.
South Africa was the fifth most affected country in the world by the virus, but had the pathogen under control since August. It currently has more than 8,500 people in hospital.
A different strain of the virus has been detected in the UK than in South Africa. UK Health Minister Matt Hancock has said it is out of control. The new strain spreads 70% faster than the virus we already know. But there is no confirmation of whether it is more lethal and whether it will have any impact on the vaccines already developed.
The variant discovered in the UK is known as VUI 202012/01 and may have originated in London or Kent in September. According to Patrick Vallance, the British government's scientific director, "not only is it progressing faster, but it is becoming the dominant variant".
To prevent the spread of this new variant, Switzerland has announced that it will ban entry to people from the UK and South Africa. It is also asking for a 10-day quarantine for those who have arrived from these destinations from 14 December. And it has banned tourist travel to both countries, with specific exceptions.
Likewise, the prohibition of the entrance of the passengers coming from these countries will be given in Germany, Turkey, Denmark, Spain - decided today, Monday, together with Portugal - among others.