LONDON — South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana.
Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant is actually responsible.
The World Health Organization has convened a technical group of experts to decide whether the new variant warrants being designated a variant of interest or a variant of concern.
There are fears that the new variant could be even more contagious than the current predominant one and could bypass the effectiveness of the vaccination campaigns.