SAfrican experts say it will take “weeks and weeks” to see if the most mutated Covid-19 variant ever discovered has the ability to circumvent Western vaccines.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, former chair of South Africa’s Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Telegraph it would take weeks to see if the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines would defend themselves against the new B.1.1.529 variant .
The highly contagious variant, has twice as many mutations of the Delta variant and is currently driving an explosion of cases in the region around Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital.
Late on Thursday night, Britain put six southern African countries – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – on a renewed red list and said they would stop flights on Friday until a system was introduced to quarantine passengers.
Israel quickly followed suit and stopped all travel to and from South Africa. On Friday, the EU said it would propose a ban on travel from southern Africa.
The new variant, which will probably be called ‘Now’, was first discovered in Botswana, but cases have been discovered in Hong Kong. Researchers say it is almost entirely behind an explosion of cases in southern Africa’s Gauteng province in the past week.