A new variant of the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) has been detected in South Africa.

The new COVID-19 strain, B.1.1.529, has been found in Botswana and Hong Kong (China) and has an extremely high number of mutations.

A South African professor, Alex van den Heever of the Wits School of Governance said it is not yet clear if current vaccines will offer protection against the variant. He said:

It is worrying that such a variant has occurred, but I think it is also inevitable in a way that we are going to see this.

The real question is whether past variants and vaccines will still protect us against this particular variant. And I haven’t really seen any analysis of that yet.

The question also is whether or not this particular variant is going to be more infectious than, for instance, the Delta variant, and therefore might actually spread very quickly. We don’t know.

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported a rise in COVID-19 cases in Gauteng Province.

Reports suggest that the neighbouring country could be heading into a 4th wave around the festive season in the coming weeks.