GENEVA, November 26. /TASS/. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) experts are working closely with the South African colleagues to study the new B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant, WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhove said on Thursday, noting that it would take few weeks to figure out the impact of the variant on jabs.
"Our team of the technical advisors on the virus evolution is discussing [the new COVID-19 variant] with our colleagues in South Africa. We are also meeting tomorrow. We are calling a special meeting to discuss this," the WHO expert noted. In particular, the sides will decide whether to classify it as a Variant of Concern (VOC) or a Variant of Interest (VOI). If the variant is classified in one of these categories, then the WHO will assign it name corresponding to a letter of the Greek alphabet. Kerkhove explained that convening of a technical group on the virus evolution was by no means a wakeup call. Such meeting will be held since "we have this system in place" for such situations, the WHO expert said.
According to Kerkhove, there are about 100 genomic sequences of this variant. "We do not know much about it yet but what we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations," the WHO expert stated, noting that the studies would take "a few weeks". This work will be aimed, in particular, at detecting "the impact of this variant on any potential vaccines".
On Thursday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced that a new COVID-19 variant with an increased ability to mutate had been discovered in southern Africa. According to British professor Tim Peacock, who studied the new variant, B.1.1.529 has 32 mutations in the protein compounds of the COVID-19 spike, which makes it easier to penetrate the human body cells. As the experts noted, the new coronavirus strain appeared in a person with a weakened immune system, probably with HIV.