Head for the hills . We are all going to die . Again .What we know about the new coronavirus variant in South Africa
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Lisa Du and Prinesha Naidoo
Publishing date:Nov 26, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 3 minute read • 29 Comments
A passenger in a taxi wears a face mask with colours of the South African flag after the announcement of a British ban on flights from South Africa because of the detection of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant, in Soweto, South Africa, November 26, 2021.
A passenger in a taxi wears a face mask with colours of the South African flag after the announcement of a British ban on flights from South Africa because of the detection of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant, in Soweto, South Africa, November 26, 2021. PHOTO BY SIPHIWE SIBEKO /REUTERS
(Bloomberg) — A new variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 — called B.1.1.529 — has been identified in South Africa, with officials there saying it’s highly concerning. Fears that a new strain could fuel outbreaks in many countries and pressure health systems, potentially evading vaccines and complicating efforts to reopen economies and borders sent a wave of risk aversion across global markets Friday. Governments around the world have started issuing bans on travellers from South Africa and nearby countries.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Here’s what we know so far:
1. What’s different about this variant?
Scientists say B.1.1.529 carries a high number of mutations in its spike protein, which plays a key role in the virus’ entry into cells in the body. It’s also what is targeted by vaccines. Researchers are still trying to determine whether it is more transmissible or more lethal than previous strains.
2. Where did it come from?
There’s only speculation so far. One scientist at the UCL Genetics Institute in London said it likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient. South Africa has 8.2 million people infected with HIV, the most in the world. The beta variant, a mutation identified last year in South Africa, also may have come from an HIV-infected person.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
3. How widespread is it?
As of Thursday there were almost 100 cases detected in South Africa, where it’s become the dominant strain among new infections. Early PCR test results showed that 90% of 1,100 new cases reported Wednesday in the South African province that includes Johannesburg were caused by the new variant, according to Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities. In neighbouring Botswana, officials recorded four cases on Monday in people who were fully vaccinated. In Hong Kong, a traveller from South Africa was found to have the variant, and another case was identified in a person quarantined in a hotel room across the hall. Israel has also identified one case in a man who recently travelled to Malawi.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
4. How have markets responded?
News of the new variant roiled financial markets Friday as stocks, treasury yields and oil sank — with travel-related stocks among the biggest decliners. The yen, typically seen as a safe haven asset, rose 0.6% against the dollar, while the South African rand slid to a one-year low. Equities in the U.S., which will resume trading after the Thanksgiving holiday, are set to open lower, with December contracts on the S&P 500 Index slumping 1.7%, the most since September. European stocks dropped the most since July.
5. How are other countries responding?
The U.K. issued a temporary ban on flights from six African countries, and others followed suit. Singapore is restricting entry for people who have been in South Africa and nearby nations within the last 14 days, while the European Union proposed halting air travel from southern Africa. Australia said it wouldn’t rule out tightening border rules for travellers from southern Africa if the situation escalates, while India stepped up screening of incoming travellers from South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
6. How worrisome is this variant?
It’s too early to say. The World Health Organization said there are fewer than 100 whole genomic sequences of the new strain available, which could add to the time it takes to study how it compares to previous strains and its impact on Covid therapies and vaccines. Viruses mutate all the time, with the changes sometimes making the virus weaker or sometimes making it more adept at evading antibodies and infecting humans.
7. What should we look out for next?
The WHO has called a meeting on Friday to discuss B.1.1.529 and decide if it will be officially designated a variant of interest or concern. If it does, it will receive a Greek letter name under the WHO naming scheme, likely the letter “nu.” More details on how infectious and lethal the variant is should also come as researchers continue to look into data around B.1.1.529.
(Bloomberg) — A new variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 — called B.1.1.529 — has been identified in South Africa, with officials there saying it’s…torontosun.com
Xi is also often rendered as "chi," and is an abbreviation for Christ, as in X-mas.Did WHO name new COVID variant Omicron to avoid upsetting China?
Author of the article:
Nov 27, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 1 minute read •
This handout picture taken and released on February 12, 2021 by World Health Organization (WHO) shows Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks during a press conference on February 12, 2021 in Geneva.
This handout picture taken and released on February 12, 2021 by World Health Organization (WHO) shows Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks during a press conference on February 12, 2021 in Geneva. Photo by CHRISTOPHER BLACK/World Health Organization /AFP via Getty Images
You say Xi or Nu? We say Omicron.
Story continues below
The Daily Mail is speculating the new COVID-19 South African variant skipped two letters of the Greek alphabet — namely Xi and Nu — and was named Omicron by the World Health Organization to avoid angering Beijing, specifically Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Up until now, the WHO has been using Greek letters such as Alpha, Beta and Delta to describe the variants.
However, there are allegations the president of China heavily influences WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian minister whose country has benefited from Chinese investment.
Omicron has already been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium.
A WHO spokesman told the New York Post that it avoided Nu because it feared “people would think it was the new variant, rather than a name.”
As for Xi, they said: “And Xi because it’s a common surname and we have agreed (to) naming rules that avoid using place names, people’s names, animals, etc., to avoid stigma.”