Coronavirus and DNA, virus mutation. New variant and strain of SARS CoV 2. Microscopic view. 3D rendering

New ‘extremely mutating’ Covid-19 variant detected in SA, Botswana and Hong Kong

The case found in Hong Kong was a 36-year-old man who had a negative PCR test before flying from Hong Kong to South Africa, where he stayed from 22 October to 11 November.

SCIENTISTS are monitoring a new Covid-19 variant with an “extremely high number” of mutations that has been detected in SA, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Only 10 cases have been confirmed in the three countries by genomic sequencing but there is concern that the number of mutations could enable the virus to evade immunity, reports The Guardian.

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The first cases of the variant were collected in Botswana on 11 November, and the earliest in South Africa was recorded three days later.

The case found in Hong Kong was a 36-year-old man who had a negative PCR test before flying from Hong Kong to South Africa, where he stayed from 22 October to 11 November.

He tested negative on his return to Hong Kong, but tested positive on 13 November while in quarantine.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, posted details of the new variant on a genome-sharing website. He said the high number of spike mutations suggested the B.1.1.529 variant could be of concern.

“Export to Asia implies this might be more widespread than sequences alone would imply.

“Also the extremely long branch length and incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern (predicted escape from most known monoclonal antibodies),” Peacock said.

Scientists will be watching the new variant for any sign that it is gaining momentum and spreading more widely. Some virologists in South Africa are already concerned, particularly given the recent rise in cases in Gauteng, an urban area containing Pretoria and Johannesburg, where B.1.1.529 cases have been detected.

As at 22 November 2021, Zimbabwe’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 133 674 with 128 465 recoveries and 4699 deaths. The recovery rate was 96%, with 510 active cases being recorded.

Regarding case management, infection, prevention and control, the number of people in need of hospitalization for COVID-19 decreased, with the country’s bed occupancy rate decreasing from 1.2% the previous week to 0.9% this week.

Also as of 22 November 2021, a total of 3 680 636 first doses had been administered, with 2 752 352 people having received their second dose.

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