New Covid-19 variant shows 'concerning mutations'
The original SARS-CoV-2 virus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, was first detected in SA in March 2020.
According to professor Tulio de Oliveira, early genomic surveillance showed "hundreds, maybe thousands, of introductions into SA" happened around the same time. Of those, "80% came from Europe, which made sense since 80% of air traffic to Africa goes through Europe".
Imported cases quickly turned to local transmissions, and though three different lineages were identified in the first wave, none dominated.
All that changed in late 2020. In October, a new variant was detected in the Eastern Cape. It was quickly analysed as its presence grew, and was eventually named the Beta variant and was said to have originated in SA.
By December, it was listed by the World Health Organisation as a variant of concern.
"It spread fast and caused a massive second wave," said De Oliveira.
Meanwhile, another variant - thought to have begun in India and dubbed Delta - reached SA. At first it showed low numbers, but this variant quickly took over.
After a hiatus, the third wave had begun, starting in inland provinces and spreading all over, leaving tens of thousands dead.
Last week, De Oliveira announced the discovery of the C.1.2 variant in SA. Scientists say it's unlikely to reduce the efficacy of the two vaccines and so far it accounts for 3% of cases but is climbing.
C.1.2 has some concerning mutations not present in current variants but it also has many that are familiar to scientists and which could make it more transmissible.
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