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WHO convenes special meeting to discuss new COVID variant in South Africa

World health body closely monitoring recently reported variant B11529 to see if it is 'of interest or concern'

Peter Kenny   | 26.11.2021
WHO convenes special meeting to discuss new COVID variant in South Africa

GENEVA 

The World Health Organization said Friday it has convened a special meeting to discuss a new COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa.

WHO is closely monitoring the recently reported variant B11529 of coronavirus is "of interest or concern," WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a UN news conference.

"Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study," said the spokesman.

He said the new variant was detected "at a remarkable speed," and it will take a few weeks to understand what impact it has.

The dominant variant of the disease in many countries that spreads quickly is known as the Delta variant.

‘Surveillance is working’

"The detection of this variant means that the surveillance system is in place and is working," said Lindmeier, who did not give an estimate of how long the analysis would take place.

The WHO spokesman said the more COVID-19 circulates, "the more opportunities, this virus has to change to mutate and develop different forms."

He stressed the need to continue to work to reduce the circulation of the virus.

"We need more people to be vaccinated everywhere, and we each need to take all the other measures that are out there to protect ourselves," Lindmeier noted.

That starts with wearing masks, avoiding larger gatherings, hand hygiene, ventilating rooms, and meeting rooms whenever possible.

"These are the measures that we know that work. And these are the measures that we know will continue to work," said the WHO spokesman.

Scientists in South Africa announced Thursday they had detected the new coronavirus variant with numerous mutations rapidly increasing the infections across the country.

"The variant has a 'very unusual constellation of mutations' and is different to the other variants of concern," Tulio De Oliveira, the director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, told a televised virtual briefing hosted by the country's Health Ministry.

He said the new variant was detected in samples from the northeastern province of Gauteng, which contains the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, on Nov. 12-22.

The same variant has also been detected in neighboring Botswana, as well as Hong Kong.

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