The new Covid-19 variant found in South Africa is stronger and spreads faster, and it’s not yet clear whether existing vaccines will have any effect on it.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, says: "This new variant's ability to bind onto the human cells is more effective than the first and makes it more deadly. Mutations in the virus allow the virus to bind to cells more deeply and effectively, driving South Africa's second wave.”
He was speaking during a scientific panel discussion, led by Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize on the new variant of the Coronavirus on Monday.
The variant, known as 501.V2, was first detected in the Nelson Mandela Bay area around August 2020.
"We are now seeing more cases and deaths than we saw in the first wave. Earlier research shows that the new Covid-19 variant has 23 mutations and has since spread throughout our entire coastal region,” said Prof Karim.
“In the Western Cape, the second wave took half as long to reach 100 000 cases. In KZN, the second wave took 33 days to reach 100 000 infections compared to 54 days in the first wave.”
He added: “There is no way to tell if the current vaccines are effective in dealing with the second variant, as scientists are still waiting on the data regarding this.”
Meanwhile, South Africa, which has yet to receive its first Coronavirus vaccine doses, will be getting nine million from Johnson & Johnson, the Health Ministry confirmed.
The country has recorded more than 1.3 million infections and more than 37 000 deaths related to the virus, the most in Africa.
Health Ministry spokesperson Lwazi Manzi did not specify when the J&J doses might be available. She was confirming a report in the Business Day newspaper.