South Africa’s scientists have detected a new variant of Covid-19 which they say has the potential to be a variant of concern.
The new variant C.1.2, which was first detected in May, has now been found in at least six of the country’s nine provinces.
Scientists have found it spreads at the same rate as the country’s current dominant Delta variant.
At a media briefing, the National Institute for Communicable diseases (NICD) said the new variant “might be able to partially evade the immune response [but] vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalisation and death”.
It added that although it is currently not a variant of concern – such as the Delta strain that can cause severe illness – it is highly transmissible.
The NICD says as it has the potential to be a variant of concern local scientists will continue to monitor its mutations – amid concerns of a fourth wave in a few months driven by a mutation.
Although most cases of the C.1.2 have been in South Africa, the mutation has also been reported in three African countries, as well as Switzerland, Portugal and China – according to a report which is yet to be peer reviewed.
More than 80,000 people have died from coronavirus in South Africa, which is still recording the highest number of infections in Africa.