JOHANNESBURG: Researcher in South Africa said on Thursday that they had discovered a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations, which is to blame for an increase in the number of infections. The number of daily infections in Africa’s hardest-hit countries has increased tenfold since the beginning of the month. “Unfortunately, we have discovered a new variant that is a cause for concern in South Africa,” said virologist Tulio de Oliveira at a hastily called press conference. The variant, which goes under the scientific pedigree number B.1.1.529, “has a very large number of mutations”, he said and expressed hope that World Health Organization will give it a Greek name on Friday. “Unfortunately, it causes a recurrence of infections,” he said. The variant has also been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, he added. “The new variant has a constellation of new mutations,” said Tulio de Oliveira, of the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa, which has tracked the spread of the delta variant in the country. “This new variant has many, many more mutations, including more than 30 to the nail protein that affect transmission,” he said. “We can see that the variant potentially spreads very quickly. We expect to start seeing pressure in healthcare in the next few days and weeks. ” De Oliveira said a team of researchers from seven South African universities is studying the variant. They have 100 whole through of it and expect to have many more in the next few days, he said. The WHO said it was “closely monitoring” the reported variant and was expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to decide whether it should be described as a variant of “interest” or “concern”. “Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further studies,” the WHO added. South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was “serious concern” and behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it a “major threat”. The country’s daily number of infections reached 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month. Prior to the discovery of the new variant, the authorities had predicted that a fourth wave would hit South Africa starting in mid-December, encouraged by travel ahead of the Christmas season. The state National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD) said that 22 positive cases of the B.1.1.529 variant have been registered in the country after genomic sequencing.