The WHO meets this Friday to analyze the new variant B.1.1.529, detected in South Africa




Variant B.1.1.529 has spread rapidly across the country and the UK and Israel have banned flights from various southern African countries to shield themselves against the new strain. Brussels has also proposed to veto flights from part of southern Africa.

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) held a meeting today to analyze the new variant of the coronavirus that causes covid-19 discovered in South Africa, and which worries scientists due to the thirty mutations it has developed.

The advisory group of experts of the WHO for new pathogens will analyze from this noon the data that are known from the variant B.1.1.529 together with his South African colleagues, as the head of the organization’s anticovid technical unit, María Van Kerkhove, announced on Thursday.

The decision comes after South Africa confirmed on Thursday the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus, identified as B.1.1.529, which has multiple mutations and which has raised “concern” among specialists because it could make current vaccines less effective. , although its impact has yet to be studied.

“We don’t know much about the variant yet, we know that has a high number of mutations, and the concern is that this affects the behavior of the virus, “said the expert, in the sense that can increase its transmission capacity, or its resistance to treatments, diagnostics and vaccines.

“It will take a few days to see what impact it can have and the potential of vaccines against the variant,” said the American expert, who saw the discovery somewhat positively, since in her opinion it reflects that laboratories continue to effectively control variations in the coronavirus.

The WHO has been warning for months that an excessively slow rate of vaccination, something that still occurs in developing countries, can lead to new, more dangerous variants of the coronavirus, and thus delay the end of the pandemic.

In total, so far, cases of this variant have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African nation) and neighboring Botswana, according to data provided by the South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Suspended flights

The United Kingdom and Israel announced on Thursday travel restrictions from several countries in southern Africa due to the detection in South Africa of a new variant of the highly mutable covid-19 that has spread rapidly in the country.

The Government of the United Kingdom has issued a statement in which it has informed that from this friday the flights are suspended from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswutini and Zimbabwe, nations that are thus added to the red list indicating the risk of coronavirus.

As of early Sunday morning, the suspension will be lifted by putting into operation a system of quarantine for travelers from these countries in hotel establishments for ten days.

For its part, the Government of Israel has included South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini In the list of countries whose travelers are prohibited from entering, the Prime Minister’s office, Naftali Bennett, pointed out after a special meeting.

Foreigners from these countries can no longer travel to Israel from those areas, and returning Israelis must be quarantined for up to 14 days in a coronavirus hotel. After a week they can leave if they test negative in a PCR test, while, if they refuse, they will have to remain in quarantine in the accommodation for two weeks.

The European Comission has also proposed this Friday stop air traffic from southern Africa to prevent the expansion in Europe of a new variant of covid-19.

“The European Commission will propose, in close coordination with the member states, activate the emergency brake to stop air traffic from the South African region for the variant of concern B.1.1.529 “, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on her Twitter account.

Follow the recommendationss in the face of the coronavirus from the health authorities. If you live in the CAV and have symptoms, call your usual health center. The Health Council will also attend to people on the phone 900 20 30 50, offering information and solving doubts about the coronavirus. If you live in Navarra, call the Health Council phone number: 948 290 290. Remember that the most effective way to prevent the spread of covid-19 is to use a mask, ventilate the spaces, keep a safe distance and wash your hands.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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