New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A new variant of COVID-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa, with the country's health minister on Thursday confirming that the African nation has seen a steady spike in infections associated with it.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the national public health institute of South Africa, earlier confirmed that a new variant classed as B.1.1.529 has been detected in the country and its 22 cases were recorded following genomic sequencing collaborations.

In wake of the new COVID-19 variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) is convening an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the potentially rapidly spreading COVID strain found in South Africa and Botswana. Earlier, scientists from the UK had warned of the appearance of a coronavirus strain, which contains 32 mutations, in Botswana.

Many of the mutations indicate its high transmissibility and resistance to vaccines, the strain has more changes in the spike protein than all other COVID-19 variants. The South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases later also confirmed that the new strain had been found in South Africa, with 22 cases to date

About COVID B.1.1.529 variant:

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO. Many of the mutations indicate its high transmissibility and resistance to vaccines, the strain has more changes in the spike protein than all other COVID-19 variants.

The South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases later also confirmed that the new strain had been found in South Africa, with 22 cases to date and that has alarmed most of the countries to take precautions against the virus.

"Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study," warned WHO.

Indian Government warnings about new COVID B.1.1529 variant:

The Indian government on Thursday issued an alert on the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 that has been detected in South African countries. As a measure for precautions Union Health Ministry on Thursday directed states to rigorously screen and test travelers coming from or transiting through three countries in which the variant had been confirmed — South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong.

“lt is therefore imperative that ALL international travellers traveling from and transiting through these countries, (they are part of the “at risk” Country Category of international travellers coming to lndia)…are subjected to rigorous screening and testing," Official government statement said.

UK Suspends Flights to South African Countries:

Britain has banned flights to six African countries and now no aircraft will be flown from London to these countries. "Health Secretary Sajid Javid said all flights would be suspended from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana from 1200 GMT Friday," Health Minister mentioned in a statement. "We will be requiring anyone that arrives from those countries from 4:00 am on Sunday to quarantine in hotels," he added.

If anyone arrives before then they should self-isolate at home and take a PCR test on day two and day eight. Also, if any traveller has arrived in the UK already, over the last 10 days, then the government would ask them to take PCR tests.

Posted By: Ashita Singh