What exactly is the new COVID variant, and why is it a cause for concern?

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What exactly is the new COVID variant, and why is it a cause for concern?


Scientists have discovered a unique Covid-19 variation known as B.1.1.529 and are investigating its consequences. In South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana, there have been about 50 confirmed instances.

According to experts, B.1.1.529 contains a peculiar set of mutations that are concerning because they might enable it to dodge the body’s immune response and become more transmissible. As the world emerges from the pandemic, any new variety that is able to resist immunizations or spread faster than the now-dominant Delta strain might constitute a huge threat.

What location has it been discovered?


Early indications from diagnostic laboratories indicate that the variation has spread swiftly in the South African province of Gauteng, and that it may already be prevalent in the country’s other eight provinces.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 2,465 new Covid-19 infections in a daily update on confirmed cases across the country, little less than double the previous day’s infections. The NICD has not linked the recent revival to the new strain, but several top local scientists believe it is.

About 100 specimens have been verified as B.1.1.529 in South Africa, but the variation has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong. According to experts, B.1.1.529 might be responsible for up to 90% of new cases in Gauteng.

How does it stack up against other options?


On Thursday evening, senior experts classified B.1.1.529 as the deadliest type they had seen since the outbreak began. It features 32 mutations in the spike protein, which is the portion of the virus used to stimulate the immune system against Covid in most vaccinations. This is nearly double the amount of people who have the Delta variant. In addition to affecting the virus’s capacity to infect cells and disseminate, mutations in the spike protein make it more difficult for immune cells to combat the infection.

The Delta strain was initially discovered in India in late 2020, but it has since spread over the world, increasing the number of cases and deaths. Alpha (which originated in Kent, England), Beta (previously known as the South African variation), and Gamma are further coronavirus subtypes (originally found in Brazil). Following a reduction in instances in Japan, it has been claimed that variations might “mutate themselves out of existence.”

What additional limitations are being implemented?


From midday on Friday, South Africa will be subject to England’s red list travel restrictions, impacting between 500 and 700 passengers who fly to the UK from South Africa every day via British Airways and Virgin Airlines.

Flights from Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe would also be prohibited. Scotland said that from noon on Friday, all arrivals from the nations must self-isolate and take two PCR tests, while anyone arriving after 4 a.m. on Saturday must remain in a controlled quarantine hotel.

In order to prevent the spread of the new strain, recent newcomers from southern Africa will be hunted down and tested.

Israel has also stated that its residents will be barred from travelling to southern Africa – which includes the same six nations as well as Mozambique – and that international visitors from the region will be denied access.

Since the remaining seven nations, including Peru, Colombia, and Panama, were removed off England’s travel blacklist on November 1, the list had remained empty. On October 11th, South Africa was removed off the list, allowing vaccinated travellers to return to the nation without needing to stay in a hotel for quarantine.

What does the new variation imply for the United Kingdom, and what does it imply for Christmas?


It’s far too early to say. Scientists in the United Kingdom are working nonstop to learn more about the new variation. Scientists do not yet have proof of the variant’s transmissibility or capacity to avoid immunizations because it has only recently evolved. With only a month till Christmas, there will be fears that the variation, if allowed to proliferate, may need more restrictions.

Is there anything I can do to safeguard my interests?


Yes. If you haven’t already done so, it’s still a good idea to be vaccinated. Britons aged 40 and over who had their second immunisation shot at least six months ago are now eligible for a booster. 

Find out how HealthBoxHR can help your organisation manage and track your employee vaccination or test status with our Vaccination & Test Tracker – without any hassle!  

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