South Africa’s genomic scientists have found the new coronavirus variant driving the country’s resurgence of new cases is about 50% more transmissible than earlier versions.
The 501Y.V2 strain identified last month “can attach to human cells more efficiently” than its predecessors, Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, said in a presentation.
However, data show it is not more likely to cause hospitalization or death, he said Monday.
South African Covid-19 cases began to accelerate in November and the following month scientists announced the discovery of the new mutation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa went on to introduce stricter lockdown rules, including a ban on alcohol sales and a nighttime curfew.
Other variants have been identified in countries including the U.K. and Brazil, leading to concerns that increasingly dangerous versions of the pathogen may hamper the global roll out of vaccines and cause further economic devastation.
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