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New COVID-19 Variants: Here’s What You Need to Know

Research is still ongoing to determine the transmissibility of these variants.

A few weeks ago, in December 2020, health experts announced that there was a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. The virus, named the VOC-202012/01 (Virus of Concern), is said to have come from the United Kingdom, and has now been found in over 40 countries.

In Asia, Hong Kong has reported its first case of infection with the UK variant in the form of a 30-year-old traveler from the Philippines. (Read: ICYMI: Duque In Boiling Water For ‘Missed Chance’ At January 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine)

The Department of Health (DOH) has said that the passenger left the Philippines after testing negative for COVID-19. She arrived in Hong Kong and quarantined there for a couple of weeks and that’s when she tested positive. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III is maintaining that the patient was not infected in the Philippines, and the country remains to be free of the UK variant.

Now, the healthcare industry is facing an even bigger problem as there are four additional variants that were found in different countries across the world. This is on top of the UK variant that has been affecting people at a more rapid pace than the first COVID-19 strain, and the D614G variant from China which is still the dominant strain in the world.

COVID-19 Variants: 501.V2 in South Africa

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The 501.V2 variant was first detected in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and reported by the country’s health department on 18 December 2020. (Photo from Oneindia)

The 501.V2 variant of COVID-19 was found in South Africa and is said to have “an unusual number of mutations concentrated mainly on the virus’s genome code for spike protein,” just like VOC-202012/01. According to experts, the 501.V2 variant has a mutation in the spike protein E484K, which “has been shown to reduce antibody recognition.” This means that this would help the virus bypass antibodies from previous infections of COVID-19, but not the protection of vaccines.

Experts are still studying whether the current vaccines will work as well with the South African variant as it does on the first strain.

COVID-19 Variants: A701V in Malaysia

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A new Covid-19 strain variant, dubbed A701V, has been detected in Malaysia. (Photo from Faris Hadziq / SOPA Images / Sipa / Reuters / TODAYonline)

The A701V variant is associated with Malaysia. According to Malaysian health experts, the new variant is spreading at quick rate throughout the country, having been detected first in Benteng Lahad Datu prison cluster and now around the COVID-19 clusters in the Peninsula. Health Minister Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the mutation of this virus is still yet to be found, but adds that the possible mutation may have contributed to its better transmissibility. “But we have yet to know the clinical impact of this variant, its infectivity rate or aggressiveness,” he said. (Read: Caritas PH Joins Pope Francis’ Call for COVID-19 Vaccine ‘for All’)

The A701V variant has already been found in South America, Australia, the Netherlands, and Singapore. It has become the dominant strain in Malaysia having been found in most cases of COVID-19 from the third wave— both in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

COVID-19 Variants: P681H in Nigeria

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Another new variant of the coronavirus appears to have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official said. (Photo from AFP / Free Press Journal)

It was in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where the P681H strain was first found by experts. “The one we are seeing in Nigeria, and this is based on very limited data yet, has the 501 mutation,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 501 he is referring to is the South Africa variant of the disease. He says that based on currently limited data, this variant is not contributing to the increase of cases in the country. (Read: How do you eat healthy while in quarantine? We asked a nutritionist-dietician!)

Research is still ongoing on the specifics for this variant such as transmissibility and deadliness.

COVID-19 Variants: Cluster 5 in Denmark

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Denmark had on November 6 ordered the culling of the entire farmed mink population of 17 million to prevent further changes to the virus emerging among minks. (Photo from AFP / The Hindu)

Denmark has also found a new variant of COVID-19. The variant, called Cluster 5, is said to be mink-associated, as it first spread on mink farms. It is said that individuals involved in mink farming were found to have been infected with the Cluster 5 variant of the virus. Because of the association with minks, the Danish government ordered to cull all mink that were being farmed as the virus cannot be contained farm to farm. “Mink are acting as a reservoir and contributing to the ongoing transmission in Denmark,” said the World Health Organization’s report.

Farming and importation of live mink have been banned in Denmark until December 31, 2021.

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