The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said the new COVID-19 variant which was first detected in South Africa does not appear to be spreading.
WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris told a UN briefing, that the variant labelled C.1.2. was not currently classified as a “variant of concern” by the U.N. health agency as it was monitoring the variant as it evolves.
Earlier South African scientists said the new variant comes with multiple mutations but they are yet to establish whether it is more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.
According to research which is yet to be peer-reviewed the new variant, known as C.1.2, was first detected in May and has now spread to most South African provinces and to seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
The scientist said the C.1.2. contains many mutations associated in other variants with increased transmissibility and reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies but they occur in a different mix.
Scientists said they are not sure yet how they affect the behaviour of the virus but that laboratory tests are underway to establish how well the variant is neutralised by antibodies.
South Africa was the first country to detect the Beta variant, one of only four labelled “of concern” by the WHO.
Genomic sequencing data from South Africa shows that the C.1.2 variant was still nowhere near displacing the dominant Delta variant.
Delta is the fastest and fittest variant the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about COVID-19 even as nations loosen restrictions and reopen their economies.
However, a spokesman for South Africa’s health department declined to comment on the research.
South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, with only around 14 per cent of its adult population fully vaccinated so far.