South African health minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed the finding of a severe variant of the novel Coronavirus by scientists. According to him, this new strain could explain the rapid spread of the second wave that is affecting younger people in the country.
The strain, known as the 501.V2 Variant, was found by the South African researchers. All the gathered data related to the new variant have been sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) said Mkhize in a statement.
A team of scientists led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) in Durban has sequenced hundreds of the virus samples since the COVID-19 pandemic began. During their research, the researchers noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the last two months, said the minister.
Younger COVID-19 Patients
Meanwhile, South African doctors found that more patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection are younger individuals, and those who don't have comorbidities. Healthcare professionals said that people are suffering from more severe forms of COVID-19. According to Mkhize, it strongly suggested that the current second wave of the virus in the country "is being driven by this new variant".
The minister also said that the team of scientists, led by Tulio de Oliveira at KRISP, has shared the findings with the scientific community and alerted authorities in the UK, where British researchers studied their own samples and found a similar mutation that was the variant which is the reason behind the resurgence of virus infection in London.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson could announce strict travel restrictions just days before Christmas in some parts of the country, as he was notified about the alarming new evidence of the transmissibility of a mutant strain of Coronavirus. According to reports, he called an unscheduled meeting of senior ministers on Friday night, December 18 to discuss how to contain the new strain, which has so far been largely confined to London and the South East.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers from all around the world have found several mutated strains about which they notified the global health officials. However, even though some countries have begun the mass vaccination program or aiming for the widespread vaccination process in the first half of 2021, the health minister of South Africa reiterated that the most effective way to fight back is to practice social distancing, wear masks and wash hands on a regular basis. The country is the most affected African nation with more than 901,500 COVID-19 cases and over 24,000 deaths.