Health officials in South Africa warned on Thursday that a newly identified coronavirus variant is a "serious concern," noting that it is "clearly very different" from previous variants, according to Bloomberg News.
"Here is a mutation variant of serious concern," South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Thursday during a press briefing, according to Bloomberg. "We were hopeful that we might have a longer break in between waves — possibly that it would hold off to late December or even next year January."
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, who heads the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, added that the new variant has an "unusual constellation of mutations," and is "clearly very different," from the ones previously identified.
"This variant did surprise us, it has a big jump on evolution [and] many more mutations than we expected," he said, according to BBC News.
De Oliveira did note that previous variants have appeared worse in theory than they proved in practice, adding that "the full significance is still uncertain."
Bloomberg notes that COVID-19 cases have surged in South Africa recently, with more than 2,400 infections reported on Thursday, a significant increase over the less than 900 that were reported in the two days before.
Professor Richard Lessells of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa said that the mutations identified in the South African coronavirus known as variant B.1.1.529, some of which have not been seen in previous variants, "give us concern this virus might have enhanced transmissibility, enhanced ability to spread from person to person, but might also be able to get around parts of the immune system."
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