South Africa's COVID-19 Variant: What is the risk?
Let's go to South Africa Festival, the variant of covert there is causing concern among scientists because it has more mutations. But there's no evidence it is deadlier, maybe faster spreading. Let's sir talk to the BBC's Andrew Harding. He's in Johannesburg. Welcome, Andrew. So tell us about this South African variant. We've been talking about it for a while. Here on news day. What is the latest information We have? Good morning. Yes, It's certainly very transmissible as transmissible is the one that's currently spreading so fast across Britain. Likewise here the mutation, one of the key mutations seems to allow the virus to spread to be caught more easily. There's no evidence as you say. Yet, although tests are still being performed here, no evidence that this new mutation makes the virus more deadly. That's the same in Britain and elsewhere. But the concern that people focusing on at the moment is a third mutation. And this is the mutation that Piss to affect the viruses. Ability to connect with other cells on gets that part of the virus that the vaccines are hoping to target on the confirm, which again is now being tested with great speed and urgency here in South Africa. The concern is that there is a theoretical risk that that particular mutation which we haven't seen in Britain or elsewhere. That particular mutation might just might make these new vaccines that are coming onto the market that being jabbed into people's arms already in parts of the world might make those vaccines less effective than might be. Some reservists calls from this new mutation. But scientists here are being very cautious and saying, Look, we will have an answer to that within two or three weeks are Scientists are very busy and are ahead of the curve if you like. They've been studying this aggressively for some time, and they're in a good position to find this out soon, but there is a theoretical risk of some level of resistance. And we know it's one thing we do know through this whole pandemic is that, you know, days matter. Never mind a couple of weeks. So what is the government they're doing whilst this crucial information Has found out about the whether this third variant is resistant to the vaccine. What's the government doing to Stop the spread. Well, I mean, there are two issues there. If you want. One is the vaccine is to South Africa is struggling on the vaccine front is struggling to secure supplies. The concern is that here and in other parts of Africa, it's going to be many months before vaccine start, arriving in sort of numbers needed to create herd immunity in the immediate term in terms of transmission and keeping this second wave under control, a new big, hard lock down Is in place here across South Africa on officials who I think will really caught by surprise By the speed and aggression of this new This new variant are doing what they can The tackle it and contain it. They're saying that look, it's not just the mutations that are driving the spread of this second Wait. It's also human behavior. People getting relaxed or tired people gathering in large groups and the government as well. Failing At least a month or two ago, failing to prevent mass gatherings. And you say there's problems with the vaccine getting through to South Africa, which one have they Ordered or have they ordered several well, they're working on the comebacks scheme that many poorer countries middle income countries are hoping will get them access. But the concerns you says there are multiple Different types of vaccine, and most of those have been pre ordered by wealthier countries on a lot of countries like South Africa of really been reluctant to throw money at vaccines that might not bear fruit, so they've been hedging their bets, and that's costing them in terms of finding that sells at the back of the queue now when it comes to trying to access the most effective Vaccines in the ones that are most