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Coronavirus disaster: South Africa COVID variant B.1.1.529 worries UK, Israel

A newly identified coronavirus variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning British health officials have seen as it has double the number of mutations of the Delta variant including some associated with evading immune response.

The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant – called B.1.1.529 – has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on.

It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.

“What we do know is there’s a significant number of mutations, perhaps double the number of mutations that we have seen in the Delta variant,” Britain’s Health Minister Sajid Javid told broadcasters.

“And that would suggest that it may well be more transmissible and the current vaccines that we have may well be less effective.”

VideoHealth Secretary Sajid Javid says there are concerns that a new coronavirus variant “may be more transmissible” than the dominant Delta strain.

Announcing new restrictions on travel to Britain from six countries including South Africa, Mr Javid s…

Lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations resulting in greatly reduced vaccine efficacy, scientists said.

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, the scientists told reporters at a news conference.

The variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong.

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