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New strain of COVID-19 is driving South Africa's resurgence :

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  • Tip Bones

South Africa has announced that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus is driving the country's current resurgence of the disease, which is seeing higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The new variant, known as 501.V2, is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa, according to health officials and scientists leading the country's virus strategy. 

"It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave," Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the government's Ministerial Advisory Committee, said in a briefing to journalists.

South Africa may see "many more cases" in the new wave than it experienced in the first surge of the disease, said Abdool Karim. South Africa currently has more than 8,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous high of 8,300 recorded in August. 

"We are seeing a much earlier and much sharper rise in the second wave or resurgence than we anticipated," Prof. Ian Sanne, a member of the advisory committee, told South Africa's News24.

Here is what we know so far about the South African variant 

1. Two cases belonging to this new category have been detected in the United Kingdom, British health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

2. Both of them have come in contact of those who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.

3. South Africa had detected the mutation earlier. It reported last week that scientists have found a new genetic mutation which might be responsible for the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

4. This South African variant is more transmissible than the UK variant, British health secretary has said, as this variant has mutated further than the UK variant.

5. The variant has been named as 501.V2, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Twitter.

6. Younger people with no co-morbidities are being infected by the new variant, South Africa has found. “Clinicians have been providing anecdotal evidence of a shift in the clinical epidemiological picture- in particular noting that they are seeing a larger proportion of younger patients with no co-morbidities presenting with critical illness,” Zweli Mkhize said.

7. The new variant was discovered through routine surveillance by the laboratories in South Africa. Initially, the variant was confined to coastal regions, but has now entered inland.

8. Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel and Mauritius have banned flights from South Africa.