UK COVID-19 Variant in 50 Countries, S/Africa Strain in 20

January 13, 2021
UK COVID-19 Variant

By Ahmed Rahma

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its weekly report said it has been notified by Japan about new variant of the COVID-19 in travellers from Brazil.

According to the agency, it was notified on January 9 of the new variant detected in four travellers arriving from Brazil. The strain was found in two adults and two children.

The report stated that the variant has 12 mutations to the spike protein, including three mutations of concern in common with VOC 202012/01 and 501Y.V2 which may impact transmissibility and host immune response.

WHO said researchers in Brazil had additionally reported the emergence of a similar variant, which had likely evolved independently of the variant detected in Japan.

“The extent and public health significance of these new variants require further investigation,” the report said.

At a meeting of 1,750 international scientists held by the agency  on Tuesday to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants, WHO’s research and development chief, Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, said, “Our collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts.”

WHO said the new variants showed the importance of increasing diagnostic capacity and systematic sequencing of the virus.

“Research is ongoing to determine the impact of new variants on transmission, disease severity as well as any potential impacts on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,” the organisation said.

The agency also said the variant first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20 countries, adding that the wider the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 diseases, the more the variants should be expected.

Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, 2020, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency said.

“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge.

“Test results showed the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain.

“The South African-identified variant 501Y.V2, first reported on December 18, has now been detected in 20 countries, territories and areas.

“From preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously.

“Moreover, while this new variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the observed rapid increases in case numbers have placed health systems under pressure,” stated the report.

According to the organisation, the geographical spread of both variants is likely underestimated, given a bias towards detection in countries with virus sequencing capacity.

Rahma Ahmed

Ahmed Rahma is a journalist with great interest in arts and craft. She is also a foodie who loves new ideas. She loves to travel and would love to visit other African countries someday. She is a sucker for historical movies and afrobeat.

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