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The South African COVID-19 Variant

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In December 2020, a mutation of the deadly Covid-19 was discovered in South Africa. Ever since the first mutation of the virus was detected in the U.K, countries across the globe have not let their guards down. The South African strain is similar to the UK variant, however, the South African strain (501Y.V2) is relatively more transmissible, and targets the younger population. 

Let’s take a look at this variant, and how could this variant effect India’s mass inoculation drive:

What is the South African variant of COVID-19?

This variant was first reported on December 18, 2020, in the Nelson Mandela Bat, a metropolitan area of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. This variant is different from the Covid-19 variant in many ways including its spike protein. The spike protein enables a virus to enter the host’s body. Just like the UK variant, the new variant has a higher rate of transmissibility, which means it can infect people quickly. Unlike the original strain that had the reputation of impacting sensitive and middle-aged-senior groups, this strain is reported to be more susceptible to the younger generation.  

Variant Vs Vaccine: Will our vaccines stand tall against these mutations? 

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Source: Unsplash

Currently, the Indian government is arming the country against Covid with the two vaccines- Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Reportedly, Covaxin has been proved to be effective against the UK variant, but its efficacy against the South African one is still unknown. Given the present situation, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have already announced that their vaccines are being modified in order to boost the beneficiaries against the South African variant. 

Should India worry? 

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Source: Unsplash

So far India has reported four cases of the South African variant. All of these four cases have been reported by individuals who’ve had a history of foreign travels, and have hence been quarantined and their contacts have been checked. If the system really gives it 100 percent in following the guidelines laid religiously, India may get a breather. However, the South African variant is not the only one haunting India. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has detected a total of 192 Covid-19 cases of the new variants of mutated SARS-CoV-2 in the last two months, including four from the variant emerging in South Africa and one from the Brazilian variant. The UK-based New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) recently reported that the Kent variant may be up to 70 percent more deadly than previous strains. While cases and fatalities due to Covid-19 have reduced, states such as Maharashtra have seen a surge in cases including cases of newer variants.

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