Researchers from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) say due to the C.1.2 Covid-19 variant having a considerable number of mutations it has the potential to become a variant of concern.
Principal medical scientist at the NICD, Dr Jinal Bhiman, says while the Delta variant has driven the third wave of infections in the country, the C.1.2 could become the dominant variant in the fourth wave.
“We've identified about 109 genomes that belong to the C.1.2 variant in South Africa. It has the potential for concern because it has all the mutations that are shared with the other variants of concern,” she said during an online media briefing on Monday.
The new variant has been circulating in the country but has remained at a relatively low frequency and accounts for less than 3% of sequences.
Since the first detected case in May 2021, the variant has been detected in all provinces in South Africa.
“The C.1.2 variant has raised a bit of an alarm for us because it has accumulated quite a few mutations,” said Bhiman.
NICD’s virologist Penny Moore, said the group has considerable confidence that the vaccines being rolled out in the country will continue to protect people against severe disease and death.
“All of the vaccines should happily manage to maintain the efficacy against severe disease and death. The most important thing that we want to emphasize in this press briefing, is that the C.1.2 variant is presenting at very low levels,” she said.
NICD Acting Executive Director, Professor Adrian Puren said new variants are expected to emerge as the virus continues to spread, which is why non-pharmaceutical methods are critical in combating the outbreak.