Here we go again…
South Africa is considering new restrictions because they are seeing a variant of COVID-19 that they say is able to evade existing immunity whether by vaccine or previous infection.
The warning from the South African scientists and the Health Ministry, issued in a hastily called news briefing Thursday, prompted the World Health Organization to call a meeting of experts for Friday to discuss whether to declare the new strain a “variant of concern.”
The WHO uses this label for virus strains that have been proven to be more contagious, lead to more serious illness or decrease the effectiveness of public-health measures, tests, treatments or vaccines. Other variants of concern include the Delta variant that is now dominant world-wide and the Alpha variant that drove a deadly wave of infections across Europe and the U.S. last winter and spring.
The new variant hasn’t got a greek name yet, but it is labeled as B.1.1.529 until the World Heath Organization makes a decision on whether the variant is important enough to rate a greek letter.
The variant has become the most prevalent form of the virus in South Africa, but it’s transmissibility and lethality have not yet been determined.
B.1.1.529 is now responsible for around 90% of cases in South Africa’s most populous province, Gauteng, home to the political and economic capitals of Pretoria and Johannesburg, quickly crowding out the Delta variant. It has also been detected in neighboring Botswana and in a South African traveler in Hong Kong, said Prof. de Oliveira.
While it is difficult to predict how a new variant might spread, Dr. Fauci and other prominent media figures will likely use this to push for further restrictions on the liberties of Americans.
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