South African scientists say they have detected a new Covid-19 variant with multiple mutations, which has led to a fresh surge in the number of infections recorded in recent weeks.
“Unfortunately, we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa,” top virologist, Tulio de Oliveira, said at a news conference on Thursday.
According to Oliveira, the new variant, which goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529, has a very high number of mutations.
Oliveira explained that the variant had also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa.
Reacting to the news, South African Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, said the variant was of serious concern and behind an exponential increase in reported cases.
The Health Minister noted that daily infections have shot up to more than 1,200 cases as at Wednesday, from around 100 earlier in the month.
Last year, South Africa had detected the Beta variant of the virus although there was no known infection detected as the numbers have been driven by the Delta variant, which was originally detected in India.
Currently, South Africa has the highest pandemic numbers in Africa, notching up around 2.95 million cases, of which 89,657 have died since the outbreak of the pandemic.