There have been concerns surrounding the new variant of COVID-19, discovered in South Africa and in the UK

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is working with scientists to understand the new variants of COVID-19 and how it ultimately effects how the respiratory illness behaves.

The remarks are in the wake of the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa both announcing they had identified new variants of COVID-19.

“Viruses mutate over time; that’s natural and expected,” WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreysus said.

“The UK has reported that this new variant transmits more easily but there is no evidence so far that it is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality”

New COVID-19 variants in UK, SA

The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that a new genetic mutation of the virus had been found in the Eastern Cape, which may be attributed to the recent spike in COVID-19 infections.

Mkhize has stressed that this new variant was spreading fast and making the youth severely ill.

While the new variant in the UK can be contained and isn’t yet out of control.

“We have had a much higher (contamination rate) at different points in this pandemic and we’ve got it under control,” WHO’s emergencies chief Michael Ryan said.

Dozens of countries are now barring entry to travellers from both South Africa and the UK, in light of the new strain.

“The bottom line is that we need to suppress transmission of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses as quickly as we can. The more we allow it to spread, the more opportunity it has to change,” Gebreysus said.

“I can’t stress enough – to all governments and all people – how important it is to take the necessary precautions to limit transmission”

COVID-19: ‘Double down’ on health basics, says WHO

Gebreysus said that in light of the festive season, leaders and citizens need to take precautions that ease the pressure on health systems and frontline healthcare workers.

He added that while safe and effective vaccines give hope, they are not an excuse for people to let down their guard and put themselves and their loved ones at risk.

“Now is the time to double down on the public health basics that have seen many countries suppress the virus effectively. There are a number of groups that continue to push a narrative that this virus only affects the old, and that with vaccines on the horizon we can relax,” Gebreysus further said.

New COVID-19 variants ‘natural and expected’ – WHO

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