There are growing concerns that the Botswana Covid variant could be driving an increase in South African cases.

Since November 11, when the variant was detected, South Africa’s national infection rate has risen more than fivefold. 

Officially, only 22 B.1.1.529 infections have been detected so far in the country. One cluster was found in Gauteng.

But it’s been spotted in nearly every province, public health experts in South Africa revealed today, and is already in three countries — including Hong Kong.  

Yesterday’s alarm was raised about this variant after 32 mutations were revealed. This is probably the most developed version of Covid to date.  

South Africa’s health chiefs were worried that the new variant might be outperforming the Delta version. The variant can easily infect people who have been vaccinated. 

MailOnline received a report yesterday from British experts indicating that this infection could have occurred in a lingering condition in an immunocompromised individual, or possibly in someone who has undiagnosed AIDS. 

Botswana has a complex set of modifications to its spike protein that are thought to render it immune to vaccines. The immune system is trained to recognize the older variant of the virus by current jabs. 

South Africa examines about 30% of all variants cases. This indicates there could be more. 

Experts say that there’s no reason to worry as evidence has yet to show the variant spreading quickly.

On Tuesday, the country started to count positive lateral flow testing in its official figures. Health chiefs predicted that this would cause an abrupt spike.

Due to HIV/AIDS’ experience, they added that South Africa had good Covid surveillance.  

The World Health Organization is likely to give this variant the name “Nu” in the coming days. This is the Greek alphabet’s next letter. 

Professor Tulio, who oversees Covid surveillance within the South African Province of KwaZulu-Natal warned that B.1.1.529 may be even more prevalent.

He said that the majority of samples from November 12-20 were Gauteng.

He stated, “This lineage has very high numbers of mutations and concerns about immune evasion.

‘[But]It was not detected immediately here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from South Africa.

Which is the latest ‘Botswana’ B.1.1.529 variation? 

Are you concerned?

Scientists advise that Britons not worry too much about the variant.

These mutations indicate that the virus is more susceptible to vaccine-induced antibodies than others.

This is not yet supported by laboratory tests and real-world data. 

What have you done to find the victims? 

So far, 26 cases were identified. 

They are two in Botswana; 22 in South Africa.

Hong Kong also has a case involving a 36 year-old African man, who recently returned to Hong Kong from Africa.

South Africa’s epidemic is concentrated in Gauteng and Limpopo. These two areas are experiencing a sharp rise in infection rates. 

There have not been any cases reported in Britain so far. The UK authorities said they would be closely watching the situation. 

The strain can it evade vaccination-induced immunity

Researchers believe the genetic mutations of these strains suggests that they are better equipped to resist immunity.

It was warned that it might be able to dodge jabs better than any other strains of the ‘Beta’ South African strain.

South African scientists claim many cases of infection in South Africa have been reported by people who thought they were immune from previous or vaccine-related infections. 

This mutation is similar to the Beta variant’s K417N or E484A and makes it more resistant to jabs.

However, it has the mutations N440K found on Delta variant and S477N in New York variant that may make it even more resilient.

The mutations B.1.1.529 and N679K are also present in this spike protein.

South African scientists claim that there have been many cases of infection in patients who were previously thought to be immune from previous infections or vaccines. 

MailOnline spoke with Dr Simon Clarke of Reading University who said that the variant was either new or had been around for awhile.

He stated that South Africans had a good record of surveillance due to their HIV experience. 

“On this basis they don’t seem to be picking up it in large numbers yet.

‘[But]We need to be cautious here as we have transmissibility, which is a rare strain.

“It might not be very fitted, or it might just be that it’s very new.”   

Experts from Britain raised concerns yesterday about the Covid virus that may have recently emerged in Botswana.

Globally, 26 of these cases have been identified. The majority are in South Africa.

On November 11, Botswana was the first to be identified, followed by South Africa in November 12 and 13.

On November 13, a case of a man aged 36 who was returning from South Africa in November 11th, was also found in Hong Kong.

The South African version has been found in Limpopo, Gauteng and North West Provinces. 

There are 32 possible mutations. Many of these suggest that it can be transmitted and is resistant to vaccines. It also has more modifications to spike protein than any other variant.

Francois Balloux is a University College London geneticist who said that it was likely to have emerged as a lingering virus in an immunocompromised person, perhaps someone suffering from undiagnosed AIDS.

Current jabs are unable to combat changes to the spike because the vaccines train the immune system not to recognize an older form of the virus. 

Dr Tom Peacock was a professor of virology at Imperial College and the first to notice its spreading. He described it’s unique combination as “horrific”.

He warned that B.1.1.529, its scientific name, had the potential to be ‘worse than nearly anything else about’ — including the world-dominant Delta strain. 

MailOnline was told by scientists that the unprecedented amount of mutations could work against it, making it unstable, which would prevent it becoming more widespread. 

The experts said that there wasn’t any reason to worry as there are no indications yet of it spreading quickly.

Three infections have been detected in Botswana to date and six in South Africa — where variant surveillance is more robust.

Another case was also spotted by a Hong Kong 36-year-old male who has recently returned to the continent. 

In Britain, there are currently no known cases. The UK Health Security Agency took over Public Health England’s duties and said that it is closely monitoring the situation. 

According to the official spokesperson of the Prime Minister, the variant is not considered an issue for the UK.

Because of the’very large’ number of mutations, concern has been expressed about this mutant variant. 

Francois Balloux is a University College London geneticist who said that it’s likely that the variant will be more capable of evading antibodies than Delta.

MailOnline was informed by him that it would be monitored closely for the moment.

“But it’s not necessary to worry too much, except if it increases in frequency.”

According to him, the many mutations suggest that it may have been caused by a lingering virus in an immunocompromised individual such as an AIDS patient.

Because the immune system is weak, infections may persist for several months in patients who have weakened immunity.

This allows the virus to evolve mutations to allow it to overcome the body’s defenses. 

Researchers have previously suggested that the Kent “Alpha” variant could have been created in this manner.

Warwick Medical School virologist Professor Lawrence Young said that it “looks like” this mutant strain might be more effective at avoiding vaccine-triggered immunity than any other mutants due to its mutations.

He added, “It is always difficult to determine just by looking at.” [mutations]This is dependent on the way the immune system responds and sees the change.

“But it appears that this may be due to the extreme load of [mutations] — some of which we know about quite a bit in terms of harming transmission — it looks like it might be slightly more qorrying than the South African variant.’

According to him, it is difficult to predict if the virus will be more transmissible that Delta at this point.

Microbiologist Professor David Livermore from the University of East Anglia said that the Botswana version had raised concern due to its “very extensive” set of mutations. 

He stated that this increased the chance of vaccine escape but does not prove it will happen. 

“Nor is the strain’s infectiousness obvious, and it will also be affected by spike’s structural effects.”

Botswana has a Botswana version with mutations K417N, and E484A. This makes it more able to avoid vaccines.

However, it has N440K (on Delta) and S477N (on the New York variant), which also have been linked to antibody escape. 

This variant has the mutations N679K and P681H, which can be ‘rarely observed together’. These could increase its jab resistance. 

The mutation N501Y, which makes viruses more transmissible, was seen previously on Beta and the Kent Alpha variants of the virus.

It also has Q478K and Q496K mutations. However, their significance is still not clear.

Dr Meera Chaud of the UKHSA stated: “The UK Health Security Agency in partnership with international scientific bodies is continuously monitoring the status SARS-CoV-2 variants, as they arise and develop around the world. 

“As viruses are known to evolve frequently and randomly, it’s not uncommon for cases with new mutations to be discovered. Rapid assessment is done on any variants that show evidence of spreading. 

These cases of Covid continued to rise in the UK. However, deaths and hospitalisations continue to trend downwards.

Another 43,676 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours, a rise of 14.1 per cent on the 38,263 confirmed positive cases last Wednesday.