Thousands have panicked after South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers.
Addrresing the members of the media fraternity, the scientists said they are working to understand its potential implications.
The variant – called B.1.1.529 – 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, scientists told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 22 positive cases of the new variant have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing.
The variant is believed to have a very high number of mutations.
It has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa, he said.Daily infections jumped to more than 1,200 on Wednesday, up from about 100 earlier this month.
Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around the middle of December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.