Amid concern over the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, the Director of South Africa's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation, Tulio de Oliveira has called it 'worrisom' at the mutational level.
"This new variant is really worrisome at the mutational level. South Africa and Africa will need support (financially, public health, scientific) to control it so it does not spread in the world. Our poor and deprived population can not be in lockdown without financial support," Tulio said in a Twitter thread.
Raising concern over the variant's speed of spread, the expert said, "this new variant, B.1.1.529 seems to spread very quick! In less than 2 weeks now dominates all infections following a devastating Delta wave in South Africa (Blue new variant, now at 75% of last genomes and soon to reach 100%)"
This new variant, B.1.1.529 seems to spread very quick! In less than 2 weeks now dominates all infections following a devastating Delta wave in South Africa (Blue new variant, now at 75% of last genomes and soon to reach 100%) pic.twitter.com/Z9mde45Qe0— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) November 25, 2021
"Because this variant (B.1.1.529) can be detected by a normal qPCR due to deletion at Spike position 69-70 (like Alpha), it will make it easy for the world to track it. We estimate that 90% of the cases in Gauteng (at least 1000 a day are this variant, due to qPCR proxy testing)," he said in another tweet.
The official added that the organization is working around the clock to understand effects on transmissibility, vaccines, re-infection, disease severity, and diagnostics, adding that it while it has funding for science, South Africa and Africa need financial help to support their deprived population and health system.
Notably, South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a WHO working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.
The country - the worst affected in Africa in terms of total reported cases and deaths - had been experiencing a lull in COVID-19 cases after a severe third wave of infections, until last week when new infections started to pick up.