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WHO holds meeting to access ‘Most Heavily Mutated’ New COVID-19 Variant


GENEVA : The World Health Organization is convening an experts’ meeting from Geneva on Friday to assess the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 amid growing concern, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.

“WHO is convening a meeting … to better understand the timeline for studies that are under way and to determine if this variant should be designated as a variant of interest or variant of concern,” he said.

Nearly 100 sequences of the variant have been reported, and early analysis shows it has “a large number of mutations” requiring further study, Lindmeier said. The WHO had no comment for now on travel restrictions imposed by some authorities on southern african countries linked to the variant, he added.

EU proposes banning flights from southern Africa over Covid variant

The EU chief Ursula von der Leyen says on Twitter that the European Union will propose banning travel from southern Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant that scientists fear could torpedo efforts to beat the pandemic.

Meanwhile, The Centre on Thursday had asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where a new COVID-19 variant of serious public health implications has been reported.

“In view of the threat from a new COVID-19 variant from African countries, we have requested experts to make a presentation to the DDMA on Monday and suggest what steps we should take. We will take all steps necessary to protect you and your family,” Kejriwal tweeted on Friday.

The new variant of COVID-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa, with authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at the Imperial College London, had posted details of the new variant classed as B.1.1.529 on his Twitter account earlier this week, following which scientists have been weighing in on what is being considered a variant of concern, though it is yet to be formally categorised in the UK.

Scientists the world over will be watching the new variant for signs of gaining momentum or spreading more widely and rapidly. The high number of spike mutations are concerning from the point of view of both higher transmissibility and immune evasion.

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