A newly identified coronavirus variant has spread in South Africa.
The variant – originally called B.1.1.529 – has a spike protein that is different from the one our vaccines are based on. The new variant has been called Omicron by the World Health Organisation.
Lab studies are still needed to assess how contagious this new variant of Covid is.
So far South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens of B.1.1.529h. However, the variant has also been found in Botswana, Hong Kong, and throughout Europe.
The variant has more than 30 mutations on its spike protein. This is more than double the number carried by the Delta strand.
So far a number of countries have closed all their borders to South Africa in an attempt to stop the spread.