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WHO to fulfill on Friday to evaluate new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa

By: PTI | Geneva, United Nation |

November 26, 2021 12:05:42 pm

The World Well being Organisation is monitoring the brand new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 first detected in South Africa and can maintain a “special meeting” on Friday to debate if the closely mutated pressure will turn out to be a variant of curiosity or a variant of concern, a high official mentioned.

The newest variant is essentially the most closely mutated model found thus far. First recognized in South Africa in the beginning of this week, the pressure has already unfold to neighbouring international locations, together with Botswana, the place it has been reportedly detected in absolutely vaccinated individuals.

The brand new variant has been red-flagged by scientists over an alarmingly excessive variety of spike mutations which may make the virus extra proof against vaccines, enhance its transmissibility and result in extra extreme COVID-19 signs.

“There are fewer than 100 whole genome sequences that are available. We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, that can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Infectious Illness Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Lead on the WHO Maria Van Kerkhove mentioned throughout a digital Q&A session on Thursday.

She mentioned proper now the researchers had been getting collectively to know the place these mutations and spike protein are and what that probably might imply for COVID19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Kerkhove mentioned WHO colleagues in South Africa are planning to undertake a neutralisation examine that may take a number of weeks “for us to understand what impact this variant has on any potential vaccines.”

Emphasising that an excessive amount of work is underway on the brand new variant, Kerkhove mentioned the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution is discussing this with colleagues in South Africa. “We’re also meeting again tomorrow. We’re calling a special meeting to discuss this, not to cause alarm, but just because we have this system in place, we could bring these scientists together and discuss what does it mean and also can set the timeline for how long it will take for us to get those answers,” she mentioned.

“So right now, it’s a variant that is under monitoring. The TAG Virus Evolution working group will discuss if it will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern. And if that’s the case, then we will assign it a Greek name. But it is something to watch,” she mentioned.

It’s “good” that some of these variants are being detected as a result of meaning there’s a system in place that’s working, Kerkhove famous.

The WHO has mentioned that solely 27 per cent of well being staff in Africa have been absolutely vaccinated towards COVID-19, leaving the majority of the workforce on the frontlines towards the pandemic unprotected.

After virtually 4 months of a sustained decline, COVID-19 circumstances within the basic inhabitants in Africa have plateaued. For the primary time for the reason that third wave peak in August, circumstances in Southern Africa have elevated, leaping 48 per cent within the week ending on November 21 in contrast with the earlier week.

To this point, greater than 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa. In 39 international locations which supplied knowledge, 3.9 million doses have been given to well being staff.

“With a new surge in cases looming over Africa following the end-of-year festive season, countries must urgently speed up the rollout of vaccines to health care workers,” mentioned Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Based on the WHO, vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the previous three months. Africa has obtained 330 million doses from the COVAX Facility, the African Vaccine Acquisition Process Group and bilateral agreements since February 2021.

Of those 83 per cent have been delivered since August alone. As vaccine provide picks up, addressing uptake bottlenecks and accelerating rollout turn out to be extra essential.

Kerkhove mentioned that the extra the COVID-19 virus circulates, the extra alternatives the virus has to vary, the extra mutations there shall be.

“So, we need to drive that transmission down so that we reduce the possibility of having more variants emerge. But this is one to watch. I would say we have a concern but I think you would want us to have a concern,” she mentioned.

She famous that the WHO was monitoring not less than 30 sub-lineages of the extremely transmissible Delta variant, which can also be evolving.

In opposition to the backdrop of the brand new variant being detected in South Africa, Dr Mike Ryan, Govt Director of the WHO Emergencies Programme, cautioned that there needs to be no knee-jerk responses particularly with relation to South Africa, which is selecting up attention-grabbing and vital indicators for “which we’re doing the right danger evaluation and danger administration.

He mentioned that previously when there was any point out of any sort of variation of the virus, everybody was “closing borders and restricting travel”.

“It’s really important that we remain open, and we will remain focused on understanding and characterizing the problem and not punishing countries for doing outstanding scientific work and actually being open and transparent about what they’re seeing and what they’re finding,” Ryan mentioned.

The WHO official mentioned it was actually vital that international locations just like the UK and South Africa, who’re overtly sharing and being clear about variants, are supported.

“If we’re going to beat this virus, we need good information. And good information will only come when people feel that they may share that information without being punished for having done so. We have not fully assessed any threat or risk associated with this variation. That remains to be seen and the studies need to be done,” he mentioned.

Cautioning those who viruses evolve and there are variations, Ryan, nevertheless, added that “it’s not the end of the world and the sky is not falling in.”

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