B.1.1.529 has a very unusual constellation of mutations, which are worrying because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists have said.

Scientists have detected a new Covid-19 variant called B.1.1.529 and are working to understand its potential implications. About 100 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Botswana, writes the Guardian.

B.1.1.529 has a very unusual constellation of mutations, which are worrying because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists have said. Any new variant that is able to evade vaccines or spread faster than the now-dominant Delta variant may pose a significant threat as the world emerges from the pandemic.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said the R value, or effective reproduction number, of the B.1.1.529 variant in the South African province of Gauteng, where it was first found, was now 2 – a level of transmission not recorded since the beginning of the pandemic, before restrictions began to be imposed. For an R of anything above 1, an epidemic will grow exponentially.

In a regular daily update on confirmed cases nationally, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 2,465 new Covid-19 infections, slightly less than double the previous day’s infections. The NICD did not attribute the latest resurgence to the new variant, although some leading local scientists suspect it is the cause.

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