Experts from the World Health Organization met on Friday to assess a variant of COVID-19 in South Africa that has spread rapidly among young people and has already caused many mutations.
It’s too early to say whether the new variant, dubbed B.1.1.529, will have the potential impact of the troublesome delta variant. But the WHO will soon decide to give the latest variant a name from the Greek alphabet, one of the first indicators that it deserves to be seen as an increased threat.
Scientists have little information about the variant and its potential for danger at the moment, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical officer at the World Health Organization, on Thursday.
“What we do know is that this variant has a lot of mutations, and the concern is that when you have that many mutations, it can impact the behavior of the virus,” Van Kerkhove said.
The variant would likely be named nu – the next letter available in the Greek naming system for coronavirus variants – if reported by the WHO group.
Researchers want to measure the potential for the variant to spread around the world, possibly triggering new waves of infection or exacerbating ongoing increases driven by the delta, South African health experts have said.
The new variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, according to Joe Phaahla, the country’s health minister. Phaahla said the variant quickly spread to Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
“We fly at high speed,” Penny Moore, a virologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told the science journal Nature. Moore’s lab is evaluating the potential of the variant to dodge immunity against vaccines and previous infections.
The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with disturbing mutations, often disappear. Scientists are watching for possible changes that could be more transmissible or fatal, but determining whether new variants will impact public health can take time.
Also in the news:
►Amid news of the newly discovered variant, S&P futures were down 1.67% and Dow futures were down 2.2%, predicting a bad trading day before trading opened. US financial markets Friday.
►British officials have announced that six African countries will be added to England’s travel “red list”. Meanwhile, on Friday, several countries in the European Union were preparing to stop air travel from southern Africa to counter the spread of the new variant of COVID-19.
►From Monday, hospitals in Massachusetts will have to cut back on elective scheduled procedures due to staff shortages and longer patient stays, state health officials say.
►The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and the AAA Automobile Club predicts that 48.3 million people will drive at least 80 kilometers from their homes during the holiday season.
??Numbers of the day: The United States has recorded more than 48 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 775,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: nearly 260 million cases and over 5.1 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans, or about 59.1% of the population, are fully immunized, according to the CDC.
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Macy’s Thanksgiving parade returns, with all the trimmings
Giant balloons once again floated across miles of Manhattan, contested by costumed manipulators. High school and college marching bands from across the country were back, as were the crowds at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
After being strangled by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the holiday tradition returned on Thursday, but with precautions.
“It really made Thanksgiving very festive and full of life,” said Sierra Guardiola, a 23-year-old interior design firm’s assistant, after watching the show with a turkey hat.
Thousands of walkers, hundreds of clowns, dozens of balloons and floats – and, of course, Santa Claus – marked the last holiday event in the United States to make a comeback as vaccines, familiarity and sheer frustration made officials and parts of the public more comfortable with large gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.
– Cydney Henderson
COVID-19 cases on the rise again this holiday season
Despite early signs suggesting the United States may have averted another winter wave, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.
The country reported 665,420 cases in the week ending Monday, an increase of more than 30% from the rate of cases reported about a month ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data.
As cases increase in 39 states, US health and human services data shows hospitals in 32 states admitted more patients in the past week than the week before.
“Frankly, I’m really worried,” said Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Global Public Health at New York University. “I would say we are better off than last year, but the cases are starting to pile up and this is something we really need to watch out for.” Read more here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Buyers tired by the pandemic will they be in force for the holidays?
Driven by strong hires, healthy salary gains, and substantial savings, shoppers are returning to stores and splurging on all types of items.
But the big question is, how much will supply shortages, higher prices, and staffing issues ease their mood this holiday season?
Americans, already tired of pandemic-induced social distancing policies, can get cranky if they can’t check off items on their vacation wishlists, or they may feel disappointed with the meager vacation cuts. The fact that many frustrated workers have decided to quit before the holidays, leaving companies short-staffed during the busiest time of year, exacerbates their bad mood.
According to Aurélien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research, buyers are expected to pay on average between 5 and 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, televisions and other purchases on Black Friday this year compared to last year. . TVs will experience the highest price spikes on average, up 17% from a year ago, according to the research firm. This is because all available discounts will be applied to products that are already expensive.
Such frustrations could silence the supposedly record-breaking holiday season sales.
– Associated press
Contribution: Associated Press