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Scientists alarmed by newly identified Covid variant

2021-11-26 HKT 05:20
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  • Scientists alarmed by newly identified Covid variant
A newly identified coronavirus variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning that British health officials have seen as it has double the number of mutations of the Delta variant including some associated with evading immune response.

Earlier this month, it was found in Hong Kong in two people quarantined at the Regal Airport Hotel. The Centre for Health Protection said one of them - a man who had flown in from South Africa - had brought in the variant.

The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant - called B.1.1.529 - has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that Covid-19 vaccines are based on.

It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.

Lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations resulting in greatly reduced vaccine efficacy, scientists said.

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new Covid-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible, the scientists told reporters at a news conference.

The variant has also been found in Botswana.

The UK Health Security Agency said that no cases of the variant had been detected in Britain and they were in contact with South African colleagues over their data. (Additional reporting by Reuters)