New COVID-19 Variant: A Worrisome Signal

New COVID-19 Variant: A Worrisome Signal

At a time when the global community was thinking that much of COVID-19 frightening incursion has been mitigated by the socio-therapeutic and preventive measures through vaccines, a fresh deadlier variant has reportedly reared its head, thus fuelling new worries across the world.

With the benefit of hindsight, many countries around the world are yet to recover from the debilitating effect of COVID-19 as many grapple with job losses, dwindling economy caused by unprecedented deaths.

In the latest onslaught researchers in South Africa are racing to track the concerning rise of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The variant harbours a large number of the mutations found in other variants, including Delta, and it seems to be spreading quickly across South Africa.

A top priority is to follow the variant more closely as it spreads: it was first identified in Botswana earlier this month and has since turned up in a traveller arriving in Hong Kong from South Africa.

Scientists are also trying to understand the variant’s properties, such as whether it can evade immune responses triggered by vaccines and whether it causes more or less severe disease than other variants do.

“We’re flying at warp speed”, says Penny Moore, a virologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, whose lab is gauging the variant’s potential to dodge immunity from vaccines and previous infections. There are anecdotal reports of re-infections and of cases in vaccinated individuals, but “at this stage it’s too early to tell anything”, Moore adds.

“There’s a lot we don’t understand about this variant,” Richard Lessells, an infectious-diseases physician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, said at a press briefing organised by South Africa’s Department of Health on November 25. “The mutation profile gives us concern, but now we need to do the work to understand the significance of this variant and what it means for the response to the pandemic”.

A World Health Organization ,WHO, expert group was expected to meet November 26, and will probably label the strain; currently known as B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern or variant of interest, Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said at the briefing. The variant will probably be named Nu, the next available letter in the Greek alphabet naming system for Coronavirus variants if it is flagged by the WHO group.

Researchers also want to measure the variant’s potential to spread globally, possibly sparking new waves of infection or exacerbating ongoing rises being driven by Delta.

The current vaccines against COVID-19 are likely to provide only a limited degree of protection against the new variant of COVID-19 that has emerged in southern Africa.

This was said by a South African virologist Shabir Madhi.

“We still think to get reasonable preservation’’, Mr Madhi said of the vaccines’ effectiveness against the variant, known only as B.1.1.529, in comments to television channel eNCA in Johannesburg monitored in Nigeria.

However, he said that the shots were likely to be less effective.

Scientists, however, express fear that the variant could be highly contagious because of an unusually large number of mutations and would likely break through the vaccines’ protective shield more easily.

His comments came as several governments, including Britain, Israel, Italy, Germany and Austria, restricted air travel to some countries in southern Africa.

Meanwhile, scientists are investigating the extent to which the variant would also affect diagnostics, therapies and vaccination campaigns.

We are worried that this fresh variant is coming up close by from South Africa. This closeness opens countries at risk of rapidly spreading across parts of Africa and indeed Nigeria.

While we appreciate the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic in its fiercest days had a mitigated effect on Nigeria compared to other parts of the world, we did have our own fair share of casualties which took a toll on families across the country.

Though the infections were not relatively widespread, the preventive measures being enforced as ensconced in the COVID-19 preventive measures were handy and that must have considerably reduced the rate of infections and as a consequence low death rate.

AljazirahNigeria calls for a prompt national alert on the emergence of this variant believed to be deadlier than any before it using the various tools adopted in the past.

We call for a return to the previous measures even though it has become doubtful that this variant this time is ‘vaccine resistant’.

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