South Africa has announced that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus has hit the country, leading to a spike in cases and increased hospitalizations.
The new strain, known as 501.V2, is “dominant” among new confirmed infections in South Africa, Associated Press reports. The variant includes several changes in the part of the virus that allows it to attach to human cells.
“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave,” Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee, said via the publication.
The country currently has more than 8,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
“We are seeing a much earlier and much sharper rise in the second wave or resurgence than we anticipated,” Prof. Ian Sanne, a member of the advisory committee, told South Africa’s News24.
The United Kingdom announced a tier four lockdown after the mutant strain of the virus was detected across the pond. The announcement is coming off the heels of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rollout.
Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Iran, Colombia and Morocco have suspended flights from the U.K. for 48 hours or more, leaving many stranded.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently under investigation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after allergic reactions were reported in multiple states after it began to be administered this week.
Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, released the following statement to reporters on Friday:
“We are working hand in hand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we’ve actually been working closely with our United Kingdom colleagues, who of course reported the allergic reaction. I think we’ll be looking at all the data we can from each of these reactions to sort out exactly what happened, and we’ll also be looking to try to understand which component of the vaccine might be helping to produce them,” Marks said.