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Covid News Update: South Africa

18th February 2021 News, South Africa
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Important information and misconceptions about the 501Y.V2 variant

There has been much speculation about new Covid-19 variants. One of which is correctly called the 501Y.V2. variant, but it was first genetically sequenced and identified in South Africa which has lead to many misconceptions.

It is important to understand that this 501Y. V2 variant could have originated anywhere in the world and is, in fact, present all over the world, but due to the widely applauded South African scientists, it has been identified first in South Africa. This helps the rest of the worldwide scientific community hugely as it allows for a deeper understanding of how the pandemic is playing out across the globe.

According to Prof Tulio de Oliveira, director of KZN Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP): “It could easily have emerged elsewhere but it’s only thanks to our excellent genomic surveillance here in South Africa that we know more and more about it.

Unfortunately, the media has unfairly and irresponsibly categorized this 501Y. V2 variant as ‘The South African Variant’ which has had a hugely negative effect on the perception of our country during this pandemic, which has, in turn, negatively affected the travel industry as a whole.

It’s important to understand that all viruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, constantly mutate into new versions or variants and that there are many new variants that have been identified around the world. As far as our research and advice go, this 501Y.V2. variant is more transmissible (meaning it passes more quickly from person to person than the original variant Identified in 2019) but it has not been shown to produce worse symptoms or more fatalities than the original variant. Age and co-morbidities still increase a person’s risk but this has remained the same from the original variant to the 501Y. V2 variant.

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