What we know (so far) about the new South African strain

  • Investing.com
What we know (so far) about the new South African strain

By Alessandro Albano

Investing.com - The new B.1.1.529 variant discovered in South Africa, but now rapidly circulating in other parts of the world, has created a major shake-up in global financial markets because of new restrictions that could follow, and with them a new halt to economic recovery.

The President of the European Commission has said that a stop to flights from the southern African region will be proposed in coordination with Member States," while Health Minister Sperana has already issued an order blocking entry to travelers who have transited through South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini in the last 14 days, following what was previously decided by the UK government.

What we know so far

Called B.1.1.529, the South African variant of Covid has several mutations in the Spike protein that, according to World Health Organisation experts, may increase transmissibility and the ability to evade antibodies, raising new doubts about the protection of commercially available vaccines.

The WHO is 'closely monitoring' the reported variant and is expected to convene a technical meeting today to determine whether a variant of 'concern' should be designated, after virologist Tulio de Oliveira said at an emergency press conference that 'unfortunately we have detected a new variant that is of concern in South Africa'.

From Imperial (JO: IPLJ ) College London, Thomas Peacock explained that the 'incredible' number of mutations in the Spike protein 'suggests that this variant may be of concern'.

New mutations

What is most worrying are the mutations that the new variant has in the Spike protein, which, according to virologists, may cast doubt on the effectiveness of the available vaccines and which may be more numerous than the famous Delta variant that left India in recent months.

However, there is still limited information available and experts around the world are accelerating to get a clear picture of the South African strain. Meanwhile, new cases with this mutation have also been found in Hong Kong and Israel (where the fourth dose is already in place).

Where it comes from

B.1.1.529 was discovered by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa, which identified the strain through sequencing in 22 positive cases, but many others have been confirmed in recent hours by several laboratories in the country, with several countries in southern Africa having the same type of virus.

According to renowned infectious disease specialist Massimo Galli, 'the spread of the new Covid mutation is not surprising. This is a predictable and expected event," the expert explained, "which shows us once again that this disease can be defeated globally and not in a single country.

"Given that we are navigating by sight and there is a risk of being proved wrong without solid data, there is still one piece of data to be established: will this mutation-laden variant 'puncture' the vaccine and be able to spread better than the Delta variant?" asks Galli.

"Because if this is not the case, it remains a potential danger, but with less impact', and this is not necessarily the case because 'when mutations are very numerous, the diffusion capacity is often lower' and competition with Delta 'is far from easy', the infectious scientist stressed.

Impact on markets

"The new variant of Covid-19 will temporarily rattle financial markets, but concerns will quickly be ignored," said Nigel Green, CEO of UK-based advisory firm DeVere Group.

"The fact that a new strain has been discovered and, critically, that we know little about it at this stage, has caused nervousness in the financial markets" but for the Ceo it is possible that this oscillation "is temporary with markets remaining bullish for the time being".

"Global equities are up 16% this year with investors focused on the post-pandemic economic recovery" and shrugged off the Delta variant in the summer "they will do the same with this new variant".

This is because, Green goes on to explain, "as Delta has shown, mutations are now expected and we have more of a common blueprint on how to deal with them. Instead, global financial markets will focus on other pressing issues, including high inflation caused by supply-side bottlenecks and the likelihood of a more rapid move away from an ultra-loose monetary environment."

Meanwhile, with the Dow Jones futures at -2.3% and strong selling on Asian listings, the Dax fell 2.6%,  the Euro Stoxx 50 lost 2.9% and the JSE slides nearly 2%

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  • ebrahim khan @ebrahim khan
    This virus is not a South African mutation. We just discovered it before other countries. Our scientists are experts at viruses due to hiv an tb.
    Like 0
  • Craig Adams @Craig Adams
    What a mess. Is it possible that a relatively small country like South Africa causes a new variant but China and India are fine? Or Nigeria. I'm now starting to believe this is a conspiracy.
    Like 0
  • Jannie Carstens @Jannie Carstens
    please please no lockdown
    Like 1
  • umraan hendricks @umraan hendricks
    can south African scientists please stop being more efficient than the rest of the world. let other nations claim the discovery first you idiots.
    Like 1
  • Riaan Jordaan @Riaan Jordaan
    Here we go again…
    Like 3