Science

South Africa: variant of coronavirus not deadlier, but 1.5 times more contagious

The new variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa in October, and now predominant in the country of the continent most affected by the pandemic, is not more deadly but it is 1.5 times more contagious, a panel said on Monday. ‘South African experts. Called 510Y.V2, this mutation “is 50% more transmissible”, But “nothing indicates that the new variant is more severe”said Prof. Salim Abdool Karim, epidemiologist and co-chair of the scientific committee at the South African Ministry of Health. These conclusions are drawn in particular from data collected in the main sources of contamination in the country of southern Africa.

Second wave of pandemic puts enormous strain on South Africa’s health system

South Africa has more than 1.3 million cases of the coronavirus, including some 37,000 deaths. Hard hit by the second wave of the pandemic, the country however recorded a 23% decrease in the number of cases on Monday, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced on Monday. South Africa has arguably reached the “inflection point” of this second wave, he said, “but it’s too early to celebrate” because at the same time, hospital admissions increased by 18.3% from the previous week.

The second wave of the pandemic is putting enormous pressure on the country’s breathless health system.

Coronavirus variants (AFP – John SAEKI)

“The world has underestimated this virus: this virus can evolve and adapt”

“If there are more patients, hospital mortality has not changed” between the first and the second wave, however, underlined a specialist of the panel, Dr Waasila Jassat. The discovery of a new variant forced South African authorities to put new restrictions in place in December. “The world has underestimated this virus: this virus can evolve and adapt”, acknowledged another scientist on the panel, Prof. Alex Sigal, from the Institute for Research on Health in Africa.

Fears over the new variant have also isolated Africa’s leading industrial powerhouse, with several airlines cutting their routes. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced the arrival of 20 million vaccines in the next six months, for a population of 59 million people, without giving details.

“Pious wishes and dishonest manipulation”The Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party, denounced in a statement on Monday, demanding clarifications on the government’s vaccination program. “No proof of the efficacy of current vaccines against the coronavirus variant has yet been provided”, also acknowledged Professor Abdool Karim, stressing that “many studies are in progress”.

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