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List of countries with ‘COVID mutations’ – do they all have the same strain?

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It’s hardly a festive feeling, is it? The annual Christmas cheer has been replaced by COVID fear, as mutations of the virus have been detected in the past few days. However, misery loves company – and it would seem South Africa is not alone in recording a new strain of this deadly disease.

What countries have the new COVID-19 mutation?

As it stands, Mzansi is the only country outside of Europe that is known to battling a coronavirus mutation. This, however, could change rapidly. When the virus spreads, it replicates. Sometimes, it may make an error from its previous copy – and that has the potential to alter the behaviour of the infection. It seems this has happened in five countries:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • The Netherlands
  • UK
  • South Africa

New strain of COVID-19 in Europe

We understand that the four European countries are hosting the same strain. Initially detected in the south-east of England, there are multiple ‘spike protein mutations’ which have made this new variant much more infectious. An overwhelming majority of cases have been reported within the UK, and only a handful made it to Belgium and The Netherlands

Earlier this year, Denmark had a scare when another mutation of COVID-19 was found in mink, leading to a widespread cull of the wild animals. Investigations are ongoing as to whether this mutation is connected to these initial findings.

Is the new COVID-19 strain in South Africa the same as the one found in the UK?

However, what’s interesting here is that the South African mutation – termed as the 501.V2 Variant – is not linked to the one found in the Northern Hemisphere. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has stated that this form of the virus is particularly more transmissible amongst the younger population – a standout characteristic of this latest strain.

  • A full statement on the ‘European Mutation’ has been issued over the weekend:

Mutations ‘should not impact vaccine’

Dr Emma Hodcroft is a senior medical researcher who has been tracking these mutations. According to the expert, it’s not likely that the new strains will be immune to the virus. The scientific community is confident a jab can still do the job:

“Both variants have a higher number of mutations in their spike. It is hard to interpret what this means, but this is another reason scientists are investigating the similarities. Scientists in the UK seem to believe there are indicators of increased transmission in that variant. Certainly, we should be extra cautious and each do our part to break transmission chains.”

“Will it impact the vaccine? I don’t think we know for sure yet, but I’m hopeful it will not. The vaccine causes your body to recognise many parts of the spike – so a few changes should not mean it stops working.”

“The UK variant is in green at the top. The SA variant is the one with large yellow circles nearer the bottom. Though it’s a bit hard to see in this tree, they are quite distant genetically: they have many mutations they do not share. Both the UK and SA variants also sit on ‘long branches’. This means they have more mutations (different in each) than we would expect.”

Dr Emma Hodcroft

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