South Africa: variant of coronavirus no more deadly, but 1.5 times more contagious

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The new variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa in October, and now predominant in the country on the continent most affected by the pandemic, is not more deadly, but it is 1.5 times more contagious, a panel said on Monday South African experts.

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Dubbed 510Y.V2, this mutation “is 50% more transmissible,” but “there is no indication that the new variant is more severe,” said Pr Salim Abdool Karim, epidemiologist and co-chair of the scientific committee at the South African Ministry of Health.

These conclusions are drawn in particular from data collected in the main sources of contamination in the country of southern Africa.

South Africa has more than 1.3 million cases of the coronavirus, including some 37,000 deaths. Hard hit by the second wave of the pandemic, the country however recorded, Monday, a decrease of 23% in the number of cases, announced Monday the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.

South Africa has arguably reached the ‘inflection point’ of this second wave, he said, ‘but it is too early to celebrate’, because at the same time, hospital admissions have increased. increased by 18.3% compared to the previous week.

The second wave of the pandemic is putting enormous pressure on the country’s breathless health system.

“If there are more patients, hospital mortality has not changed” between the first and the second wave, however underlined a specialist of the panel, the Dr Waasila Jassat.

The discovery of a new variant forced South African authorities to put new restrictions in place in December.

“The world has underestimated this virus: this virus can evolve and adapt”, admitted another scientist of the panel, the Pr Alex Sigal from the African Health Research Institute.

Fears over the new variant have also isolated Africa’s leading industrial powerhouse, with several airlines cutting their routes.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced the arrival of 20 million vaccines in the next six months, for a population of 59 million people, without giving details.

“Wishful thinking and dishonest manipulation,” the Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party, which demands clarifications on the government’s vaccination program, denounced in a statement Monday.

“No proof of the effectiveness of current vaccines against the variant of the coronavirus has yet been provided”, also acknowledged the Pr Abdool Karim, stressing that “many studies are underway”.

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