ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, November 26, 2021 / APO Group / –
On November 25, 2021, South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced the detection of a new variant of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after genomic sequencing. This variant is currently labeled lineage B.1.1.529.
Details of the new variant B.1.1.529
By November 25, 2021, variant B.1.1.529 had been detected in 77 samples collected between November 12 and 20 in South Africa’s Gauteng province, 4 samples from Botswana, and 1 sample from Hong Kong. Variant B.1.1.529 shows multiple mutations in the virus genome, including more than 30 in the region encoding the spike protein responsible for entry of the virus into host cells. Some of the mutations have been detected in earlier variants, such as Alpha and Delta, and have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion. Many of the other identified mutations are not yet well characterized and have not been identified in other variants that are currently circulating. Further research is underway to determine the possible impact of these mutations on the virus’ ability to transmit more efficiently, to impact the effectiveness of the vaccine and evade the immune response, and / or to cause more severe or milder disease. .
Recommendations for AU Member States and health authorities
Africa CDC strongly recommends the implementation of public health and social measures (PHSM), including the use of masks, physical distancing and hand washing, as crucial in limiting the transmission of COVID-19 regardless of the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. Africa CDC strongly advises against imposing a travel ban on people from countries that have reported this variant. In fact, for the duration of this pandemic, we have observed that imposing bans on travelers from countries where a new variant is reported has not produced a significant result. Rather, PHSM implementation should be prioritized. COVID-19 vaccines remain a key tool in preventing severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 infection. National health authorities must strengthen the implementation of PHSM and accelerate the immunization of their populations, prioritizing high-risk groups, before the next new waves of COVID-19 infections. Public health laboratories and researchers should closely monitor the rate of gene S abandonment results. Timely genomic surveillance should be strengthened by coordinating with national and regional pathogen genomics laboratories. The CDC Africa, through the Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative, will support this coordination at the continental level. Member States should notify the African CDC immediately if they identify any new SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Africa CDC will continue to monitor the situation and provide further guidance to Member States and the public as more information on variant B.1.1.529 becomes available.
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