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Alarm as highly mutated nu variant emerges

Friday November 26th 2021

The UK restricted travel to southern Africa last night after the discovery of an alarming new variant of the COVID virus.

The variant was first reported to global databases on Monday and has a large number of spike protein mutations, the UK Department of Health said.

There are also mutations in other parts of the genome, which are "potentially biologically significant," it warned.

The restrictions apply to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Only British and Irish nationals will be allowed to entered the UK from those countries.

The variant's scientific name is B.1.1.529 but it is expected to be designated as the nu variant, using the Greek alphabet naming system. No cases have so far been designated in the UK.

It has been found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "This is the most significant variant we have encountered to date and urgent research is under way to learn more about its transmissibility, severity and vaccine susceptibility. The results of these investigations will determine what public health actions may limit the impact of B.1.1.529

"This is a clear reminder to everyone that this pandemic is not over, and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to limit transmission and reduce the infection rate and prevent the emergence of new variants. This means coming forward for vaccination as soon as possible and following public health advice."

The World Health Organization reported a 30% decrease in known deaths in Africa last week.

South Africa yesterday reported a sudden surge in reported cases of infection - at 2,465 with 114 new deaths. Last week it was reporting fewer than a thousand cases daily and ten or fewer deaths a day.

The UK yesterday reported 47,240 new cases of infection and 147 new deaths.

Tags: Africa | Asia | Flu & Viruses | Genetics | UK News

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