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Delta remains most concerning Covid-19 variant despite the emergence of Mu, says WHO

WHO experts say Covid-19 Delta variant still ‘most concerning’. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

WHO experts say Covid-19 Delta variant still ‘most concerning’. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 8, 2021


DESPITE the emergence of the Covid-19 variant scientifically known as B.1.621 or “Mu”, the World Health Organization says the Delta variant remains the most concerning because of its increased transmissibility.

WHO technical lead for Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove said that although the Mu variant had mutations, similar to the Beta variant, which could evade the immune protection provided by natural infection or vaccination, the variant hadn’t taken off like Delta.

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“The Delta variant, for me, is the one that’s most concerning because of the increased transmissibility. It's doubly transmissible compared to the ancestral strain, which means that it can spread to more people,.

Van Kerkhove said that while the number of Mu cases in South America was increasing, numbers were decreasing in other countries where Delta was circulating.

Mu was first detected in Colombia in January. It has spread to at least 39 countries.

Head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, said viruses essentially competed against one another.

“Currently the Delta tends to outcompete other variants,” he said. “While more Covid-19 variants are to be expected, not every variant means the sky is going to fall in.”

On Monday, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases reported that there had been no cases of Mu detected in South Africa or in Africa.

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The NICD said the vaccines being rolled out in South Africa had high levels of protection against severe disease requiring hospitalisation and death, even against VOI/VOCs (variant of interest/variant of concern) such as Beta and Delta and therefore would probably protect against Mu.

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