JOHANNESBURG, Dec 18 (Reuters) – South Africa is experiencing a new variant of the coronavirus that is driving a second wave of infections, the health minister said on Friday.
“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus – currently termed 501.V2 Variant – has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize tweeted.
“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” Mkhize added.
The World Health Organization said on Monday it was aware of a new variant of COVID-19 had emerged in Britain, but there was no evidence showing the strain behaved differently to existing types of the virus.
South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, approaching the 900,000 mark, with over 20,000 related deaths. A resurgence in positive cases saw government tighten lockdown restrictions this week.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Promit Mukherjee; editing by Frances Kerry)
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