The 501.v2 variant has been identified in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and along the Garden Route. It may have properties that allow it to spread faster than other variants of the coronavirus.
Reports show that the new variant has three mutations which is an unusually high number for a new variant and can bind more easily to receptor in the human body.
Evidence suggests that the current second wave South Africa is experiencing is being driven by this new variant.
Israel, Turkey, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland are among countries that have halted air travel to and from South Africa following the announcement that the new variant of the COVID-19 virus is driving South Africa’s resurgence of the disease, with higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The new strain, different from the one in the United Kingdom appears to be more infectious than the original virus. Additionally South African scientists are studying if the vaccines against COVID-19 will also offer protection against the new strain.
On the other hand, in response to the resurgence of COVID-19, the South African government introduced tougher lockdown restrictions, which include limited days and hours for the trade of alcohol and the closure of beaches in areas identified as hotspots.
South Africa currently has more than 8 500 people hospitalised with COVID-19, surpassing the previous high of 8 300 recorded in August. So far a total of 930 711 virus cases have been recorded including 24 907 deaths.