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The new version of COVID triggers live updates of the international alarm | News | DW

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  • Officials have sounded the alarm about a new highly contagious variant in South Africa
  • The WHO will hold urgent talks on Friday on the new option
  • Countries around the world are competing to shut down air traffic from South Africa

This item was last updated at 10:00 UTC.

What do we know about the variant?

B.1.1.529 has multiple mutations and could help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, South African scientists said on Thursday.

While the delta variant has two mutations and the beta variant has three, the B.1.1.529 variant has at least 32 spike protein mutations.

Young people seem to be contracting and disseminating the newly identified variant, but the coming weeks will be crucial in determining how severe the variant is, scientists said.

Israel finds the case of the variant

The Israeli Ministry of Health said it had discovered the first case of the new variant of the coronavirus in a person returning from Malawi.

In a statement Friday, the ministry said the individual and two other individuals with suspected cases of the variant were all in quarantine. All three were fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held consultations with health experts on Friday regarding the option. On Thursday, authorities announced that travel to South Africa from Israel for citizens was banned and foreign nationals from the region would be barred from entering.

“We are currently on the brink of a state of emergency,” said Bennett.

Officials sound the alarm

Scientists are studying the variant that was first discovered in South Africa at the beginning of the week. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa said 22 cases of the new variant B.1.1.529, as it is known, were discovered in the country, but that more cases are expected as the genomic analysis is ongoing.

The WHO technical director for COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said there are currently less than 100 complete genome sequences of the species. She said it would take several more weeks of scientific work to determine whether the variant would be considered an “interest variant” or a “concern variant”.

“Everyone out there should understand that the more this virus circulates, the more likely the virus is to change, the more mutations we will see,” Van Kerkhove said.

The UK Health and Safety Agency reports that the new variant has also been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong. The German Ministry of Health moved to declare South Africa an area of ​​the virus variant.

WHO convenes urgent talks

The WHO convened an emergency meeting scheduled for early Friday afternoon to discuss the new option.

Scientists are concerned about the high number of mutations within the variant and worry that it may be resistant to vaccines and pass more easily to others.

The working group meeting on Friday will determine whether the “disturbing” variant will be officially named, a difference that only four variants have received so far.

Countries move to shut down air traffic from South Africa

Countries in Asia and Europe, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom, quickly imposed restrictions on Friday after the emergence of a potentially resistant variant of the COVID-19 vaccine was discovered in South Africa.

The EU moved to ban air travel from across the South African region amid concerns about the newly discovered South African variant, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

She said the Commission would propose “activating emergency brakes to stop air travel from the South African region” due to the emergence of the new variant.

ar / rs (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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