While Covid-19 trends were declining across the world, on Thursday, scientists in South Africa said they have detected a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers.

The number of daily infections in Africa’s hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month. Responding to the sudden spike and new variant, Britain has banned all travel from the country and five other southern African nations. Scientists have warned that the variant could be more infectious than Delta and more resistant to current vaccines.

Scientists monitor all variants and classify certain ones as Variants Being Monitored, Variants of Concern, Variants of Interest or Variants of High Consequence. Some variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. As seen in the past, an increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.

Here’s a list of all Covid-19 variants found across the world:

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Delta variant (B.1.617.2) was first identified in India. It spreads more easily than other variants and may cause more severe cases than the other variants. So far, vaccines have been proven effective against Delta varint and vaccine breakthrough infections are expected. Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. Early evidence has suggested that fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others. All FDA-approved or authorized vaccines are particularly effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

The Alpha (B.1.1.7) variant found in late 2020, experts noted gene mutations were first found in Covid-19 cases seen in people in southeastern England. This variant has since been reported in other countries, including the US scientists estimate that these mutations could make the virus up to 70% more transmissible, meaning it could spread more easily. Some research has linked this variant to a higher risk of death, but the evidence isn’t strong.

The mutation on the Alpha variant is on the spike protein, which helps the virus infect its host. This is what Covid-19 vaccines target, and it makes antibodies against many parts of the spike protein, so it’s unlikely that a single new mutation in the Alpha variant will make the vaccine less effective.

The Beta variant (B.1.351) and other variants of the virus have been found in other countries, including South Africa and Nigeria. The Beta variant appears to spread more easily than the original virus but doesn’t seem to cause worse illness.

The Gamma variant ( (P.1)) was first found in January 2021 by experts in people from Brazil who had traveled to Japan. By the end of that month, it was showing up in the U.S. The Gamma variant appears to be more contagious than earlier strains of the virus. And it may be able to infect people who’ve already had COVID-19. A report from Brazil confirms that a 29-year-old woman came down with this variant after an earlier coronavirus infection a few months before.

The new variant found in South Africa has not been named by the World Health Organisation yet. The variant goes by the scientific label B.1.1.529 and has been named as ‘variant of concern’ by virologist Tulio de Oliveira. He said, “the variant has a very high number of mutations.” The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travellers from South Africa.

Also Read: New Covid Variant B.1.1.529 Evolved from AIDS Patient? Know All About Its Mutation, Cases

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