New variants of the novel coronavirus have also emerged in South Africa.
On December 18th, local time, South African Health Minister Mukez announced that a serious mutation of the novel coronavirus had been found in South Africa. According to CBS, on December 21 local time, the World Health Organization held a press conference to discuss the mutation of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
According to the BBC, so far, more than 40 countries and regions have restricted flights to and from the UK. France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland, El Salvador, Turkey and Israel have also announced that flights from South Africa are banned from entering.
What does the COVID-19 mutation mean to us?
South Africa’s Minister of Health: “There is no reason to panic”
The chairman of the South African COVID-19 Advisory Committee said the new wave in South Africa is expected to be more severe than the first, according to ABC. South Africa currently has more than 8,500 COVID-19 hospitalizations, surpassing the record high of 8,300 set in August.
According to Reuters, on December 18th local time, South Africa’s Health Minister Mukez said, “South African genomic scientists have confirmed that the novel coronavirus has mutated.” He added, “The current evidence shows that the second wave of the epidemic in South Africa is mainly caused by the new mutant virus”.
Mukez revealed that after sequencing hundreds of virus samples by Kwazulu-Natal research innovation and sequencing platform, it was found that a specific variant of the virus appeared more and more frequently in the samples collected in the past two months.
According to the New York Times, preliminary findings show that new variants of viruses spread faster and have higher viral loads. The new variety is named 501. V2″. Mukez said in a statement that the new variant is easier to spread among young people.
South African researchers have reminded the United Kingdom to identify new variants of the virus, and relevant departments have handed over the details of the research to the WHO.
Mukez admitted that he did not expect a second wave of the epidemic to come so soon. However, he believes that there is “no reason to panic” except that the variant may accelerate the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
There are differences between new varieties.
According to CBS, WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerfhoff said at a press conference that the new variant found in South Africa contained mutations similar to the new variant in the United Kingdom, but it belongs to a separate variant.” They appear almost simultaneously, so they sound like they are related. But in fact, it is a separate variant.
There are 17 mutation sites in the new British variant, of which N501Y point mutation and H69/V70 missing mutations occur in spiny proteins. According to the Wall Street Journal, preliminary analysis shows that it is these mutations that cause the new variants of the novel coronavirus in the UK to be 70% more infectious than the ordinary coronavirus.
It is worth noting that the mutation of N501Y point also occurs in new varieties in South Africa. However, South African scientists have not yet quantified their research on the propagation of the new variants, and Köfhoff said that they are working with South African researchers to determine whether the behavior of the new variant has changed in transmission.
According to ABC, South African scientists are also studying the impact of new varieties on vaccination effectiveness. South African health authorities said that the study is still in progress, and it is too early to make any judgment.
South African scientists also pointed out that people’s social interaction without complying with epidemic prevention regulations can also cause a surge in confirmed cases of COVID-19. They stressed again that wearing masks and maintaining a certain social distance are all vital epidemic prevention measures.
In response to the second wave of the epidemic in South Africa, the South African government has also introduced stricter lockdown measures, including imposing curfews in key areas of the epidemic, shortening the time of alcohol trading, controlling public beaches and limiting the number of parties.
WHO experts say that the new variant will not affect the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The sudden change of the novel coronavirus has attracted worldwide attention. As soon as the news of the new variant came out, more than 40 countries and regions have taken measures to restrict flights to and from the UK, which directly affects the food supply of food in the UK during the holiday. At present, at least eight countries have also issued entry restrictions on South African flights.
Many people are worried about the news that a new variant of the virus has appeared, and some public opinion even believes that the impact of the emergence of a variant of the virus may be beyond imagination. When we talk about mutations, what are we talking about?
According to the New York Times, when viruses spread in people, their genetic sequence changes slightly, that is, genetic mutations. Usually, these mutations are meaningless.
Notably, new variants of viruses found in the UK and South Africa have changed in the genes used to encode spiny proteins. According to the analysis of the article in Nature, spiny protein can help viruses penetrate cells.
The mutation occurs on spiny proteins, which means that the mutated virus may be able to avoid the immune effect of the vaccine, resulting in a decrease in vaccine effectiveness.
However, judging from the current research, the possibility that this mutation will lead to a decrease in vaccine effectiveness is not high. According to the New York Times, British experts say that it will take years for the virus to accumulate variations to reach a level that is enough to invalidate the vaccine.
The chief WHO scientist, Sumiya Swaminatan, also pointed out that the COVID-19 virus is mutating much slower than the influenza virus.
Even though there are many variations, no new variant has been found to have a significant impact on therapeutic drugs or vaccines under development. It is hoped that this will continue, but continuous monitoring of COVID-19 is still necessary.
The South China Morning Post pointed out that even if there are new variants that can escape the vaccine, people do not have to worry too much. A large number of vaccines under development and on the market are mRNA vaccines, which can be directly based on existing vaccines and change the mutation sequence of new varieties.