Malta detects first case of South African COVID-19 variant

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VALLETTA. Feb. 16 (Xinhua) — Malta has detected its first case of the South African variant of COVID-19, Health Minister Chris Fearne said here on Tuesday.

Fearne told journalists that only a single case had been detected and did not provide details of where it had come from.

He said that the number of cases of the variant first found in the United Kingdom had increased to 49 from 15 detected at the beginning of February.

Both variants are more transmissible and according to scientists, are more infectious and more resistant to any of the vaccines, that have already been approved and are being administered around the world.

The South African variant carries a mutation called N501Y that appears to make it more contagious or easier to spread. Another mutation of the South African variant called E484K could help the virus dodge a person’s immune system and may affect how well coronavirus vaccines work.

Fearne said that genetic sequencing used to keep track of these variants has been stepped up to increase monitoring, and that all the positive cases are currently in isolation.

There are doubts over the Astra Zeneca vaccine’s effectiveness against the South African virus variant. This vaccine offers limited protection against mild disease from the variant, but experts say it should still protect against severe disease.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, however, has produced a strong response to both the South African variant and the UK variant.

The World Health Organization said recently that 242 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 63 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States. Enditem

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