New Delhi: A new variant of the coronavirus - B.1.1.529 - has raised an alarm after it was first identified in South Africa this week. Even people who have been fully vaccinated have been infected by the new COVID-19 variant.
The B.1.1.529 variant has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are a cause of concerning because they could help it evade the immune response of the body and make it more transmissible, scientists in South Africa informed.
More than 100 people have been infected by COVID-19 new variant B.1.1.529 with neighbouring Botswana alone reporting four cases.
Meanwhile, India, which has been witnessing decline in new COVID-19 cases, has already stepped into action. The country is conducting rigorous screen on passengers travelling from or transiting through South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, on Friday, said his country is "currently on the verge of a state of emergency". The Prime Minister met the health experts who informed that a case of COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations first detected in South Africa has been identified in the Israel.
Here are 10 things you need to know about new variant of coronavirus - B.1.1.529
• The new COVID-19 variant - B.1.1.529 has been termed as ‘variant of concern’ by virologist Tulio de Oliveira
• Two cases have been detected in Hong Kong - where travellers different parts of South Africa were isolated in separate rooms. The samples tested had "very high" viral loads
• Prof de Oliveira said there were overall 50 mutations and over 30 on the spike protein, which is the target of most vaccines and the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway into our body's cells
• Early PCR test results showed that 90 per cent of 1,100 new cases in the South Africa were caused by the new variant
• Scientists say that B.1.1.529 carried a high number of mutation in its spike protein that plays a pivotal role in the entry of virus into the body's cell that could evade immunity including the one provided by vaccines
• Scientists are studying how the new variant is transmitting compared to the previous ones
• The first case of the new variant of COVID-19 was identified in Botswana on November 11. Within three days after this, South Africa confirmed a person tested positive of the same variant
• B.1.1.529 carries the N679K and N501Y mutation which have been reported in many other variants of concern. As per studies N501Y mutation helps the variant be more transmissible as it enables the virus to readily bind to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors
• The new COVID-19 variant also carries the P681H mutation, one of the commonly identified spike mutations in SARS CoV-2, which enhances the transmissibility of the virus
• Science Media Centre, Balloux has the new coronavirus variant - B.1.1.529 is likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient
World Health Organization (WHO), on Thursday, rushed its officials to discuss the new variant which, experts warn, could affect transmissibility and immune response due to a high number of spike mutations.
Countries including Germany, France have restricted flights from South Africa.