With new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus being discovered recently, it would seem that one has emerged in South Africa. Authorities in the country announced that there is a new variant of the COVID-19 virus and it is the one driving a resurgence in cases.

An Associated Press report stated that South African health officials identified a new variant that is spreading among the populace. This new variant was labeled as 501.V2 and it is said to be dominant among new infections.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the Ministerial Advisory Committee's chairman, said that it is still very early. However, the preliminary data suggests that the virus, which is dominant in what they see as the second wave, is spreading at a rate faster than the initial wave. Karim noted that this would give an indication of possibly having more cases as compared to the first wave that hit the country.

At present, the country has more than 8,500 people who are in hospitals dealing with COVID-19. The number surpassed the country's previous tally of 8,300, deemed the highest, which happened in August.

Since it is a new variant, South African scientists are now determining whether the COVID-19 vaccine may also protect against the new strain that scientists found. What the scientists determined is that the strain is different from the one that is in Britain. What they know is that it is more infectious compared to the original one. Scientists in South Africa are now conducting clinical tests on two vaccines - AstraZeneca and Oxford University's vaccine.

The South African government has already introduced tougher lockdown restrictions. Identified hotspots would have beach closures. The number of hours and days that they could trade alcohol was also further limited.

US authorities are also looking really carefully into the new variant that has been spreading in the UK. Moncef Slaoui, the advisor to the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program of the government, told CNN that US officials still don't know if the said strain is already present in the country. He said that they are looking very carefully into the matter.

New variant of coronavirus in South Africa. Photo: Pixabay