The World Health Organisation (WHO) has faulted claims that the new COVID-19 variant which was first detected in South Africa had begun spreading to other areas, saying scientific studies have shown that the variant does not appear to be spreading as been speculated.
The global health body noted that contrary to the claims, the variant labelled C.1.2. was not currently classified as a “variant of concern” by the U.N. health agency as it was monitoring the variant through its evolution.
WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris, who spoke during a United Nations briefing on Tuesday, assured that the health body, alongside other stakeholders in the forefront of fight against coronavirus would be on top of the case and do the needful to prevent the new variant spread.
Earlier, South African scientists said the new variant comes with multiple mutations but they are yet to establish whether it was more contagious or able to overcome the immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection.
According to research which was yet to be peer-reviewed, the new variant, known as C.1.2, was first detected in May and has now spread to most South African provinces and to seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
The scientist said that the C.1.2. contains many mutations associated in other variants with increased transmissibility and reduced sensitivity to neutralising antibodies but they occur in a different mix.
Scientists said that they are not sure yet how they affect the behaviour of the virus but that laboratory tests are underway to establish how well the variant is neutralised by antibodies.
South Africa was the first country to detect the Beta variant, one of only four labelled “of concern” by the WHO. Genomic sequencing data from South Africa shows that the C.1.2 variant was still nowhere near displacing the dominant Delta variant.
Delta is the fastest and fittest variant the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about COVID-19 even as nations loosen restrictions and reopen their economies.
However, a spokesman for South Africa’s health department declined to comment on the research. South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, with only around 14 per cent of its adult population fully vaccinated so far