New COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa could be a cause for 'serious concern', says OCTA fellow

Published November 26, 2021, 1:20 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz


Amid the discovery of a new heavily mutated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in South Africa, an OCTA research fellow on Friday, Nov. 26, said that this “could definitely be a potential for serious concern.”

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers but has shown “a large number of mutations,” according to South African scientists.

“At this stage, all we can say is this could definitely be a potential for serious concern. The concern is this virus is now radically different to the original,” OCTA research fellow Dr. Guido David said in a tweet.

“We will monitor this in terms of infectiousness and vaccine escape,” he added.

He noted that if the new variant is vaccine-resistant, “it will take some time to develop boosters that target it.”

“We were fortunate in a way that although the Delta was highly transmissible, vaccines were still effective against it,” David pointed out.

The Philippines has seen around 20,000 cases per day in September when the country grappled with a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant.

David expressed concern that if Philippine authorities do not intensify border restrictions, “my guess is this new variant will easily find its way to our country soon,” especially that the country is “opening our doors to an influx of OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] this December.”

“I personally think we should escalate whatever restrictions we have with South Africa and Botswana at the moment,” the OCTA fellow suggested.

On Nov. 25, the Department of Health detected 975 new COVID-19 infections, pushing the country’s tally to 2,829,618.