Several countries in the EU have now seen the variant of coronavirus that was first reported in South Africa in December.
Like all viruses, COVID-19 is constantly mutating. Small genetic modifications occur as the virus spreads and adapts. The majority of these modifications are insignificant, and a few can even be detrimental to the virus's survival, but certain mutations can make the virus more contagious or dangerous to the human host. COVID-19 now has tens of thousands of varieties. The South African version, also known as 501.V2 or B.1.351, is causing concern among medical experts.
In the EU, Lichenstein, Iceland, Norway, the British version has 24,000 cases in 28 countries, the South African variant has 900 cases in 18 countries, and the Brazilian variant has 200 cases in nine countries as of March 18, 2021.
Countries across Europe have imposed travel bans on South Africa due to concerns about the efficacy of existing vaccines against a new COVID-19 strain discovered in the region. European countries have observed a powerful strain that originates in South Africa and is partially immune to existing vaccines and antibody therapies.
According to Dr. Bruno Ciancio, head of surveillance at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the UK version, the South African variant, and the Brazilian variant are now the three major variants of concern in the EU. Due to the existing awareness of the variants, the Centre's simulations expect that new vaccine initiatives and policies implemented by the EU will still be successful in killing the new strain of virus, but has highlighted the need to act quickly.
The European Medicines Agency's COVID-19 emergency task force is closely tracking reports on the vaccines' efficacy on new COVID-19 versions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.