No evidence SA’s new COVID-19 variant is more severe - Karim

The 501Y.V2 variant is making the rounds during the second wave of the coronavirus in South Africa.

Infectious disease specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim. Picture: @UKZN/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim on Monday said that while the new variant of the coronavirus spreads much faster, there was no evidence that it was any more severe than the initial strain.

The 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant is making the rounds during the second wave of the virus in South Africa.

Minister Zweli Mkhize hosted a panel discussion with scientists where more information on the new variant was shared.

Professor Karim said that scientific evidence showed that the new variant of the coronavirus had resulted in a rapid rise in cases.

“It’s left to be seen whether it will end faster, but certainly it has spread much faster. In this study undertaken by colleagues at a London school, they found that the 501Y.V2 variant is 50% more transmissible than the previous variants we have in South Africa.”

WATCH: 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant update: It spreads 50% faster, not more severe

But he said that the variant didn’t seem to be causing a significant increase in mortality rates.

“The current data indicates that the virus is not causing more severe disease, but it is putting huge pressure on hospitals and we may see in due course an increase that’s just from the lack of hospital beds and the pressure on the healthcare system, but certainly at this stage we are not seeing an increase in mortality rates.”

Scientists and clinicians also said that while there had been cases of reinfections, there was no evidence that reinfections were increasing with the new variant.

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