In a new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, researchers in South Africa tested the variant found there - called 501Y.V2 - against blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients. "Under the second, it took 54 days", said Professor Salim Abdool Karim during a webinar.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Karim was chosen to lead a 45-person Ministerial Advisory Committee.
Epidemiologist Abdool Karim said it was not yet known if the current vaccines would be effective against the new variant of the virus, though several studies were going on.
A United Kingdom (UK) study of healthcare workers found that people who have had COVID-19 are highly likely to have immunity to it for at least five months but there is also evidence that those with antibodies may still be able to carry and spread the virus.
According to the Vice-President for Research at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele, with research ongoing, there seems to be no conclusive data to suggest that there is large-scale re-infection.
"The change we are seeing in cases is that biologically the virus can attach itself to human cells more efficiently".
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He estimated that it will take seven months to vaccinate the 7 million New Yorkers now eligible based on the supply. The New York Post also reports that New York has administered over half a million doses of the vaccine so far.
The cases have been identified through genomic sequencing carried out since January 6.
"Research is still ongoing to establish whether you can get re-infection, especially with the new variant". This is what causes the new variant to be more successful at infecting people.
South Africa has arguably reached the "inflection point" of this second wave, he said, "but it is too early to celebrate", because at the same time, hospital admissions have increased. increased by 18.3% compared to the previous week. Throughout the study period, however, the risk of death was almost double when at least 75% of ICU beds were filled with COVID-19 patients, compared to when they accounted for no more than 25% of ICU beds. "It is also unclear if the now available vaccines such as Pfizer's and Moderna's will be effective against these strains".
Minister Zweli Mkhize hosted a panel discussion with scientists where more information on the new variant was shared.
The decline in infections "could be attributable to many factors, including enhanced physical distancing facilitated by lockdown regulations", Mkhize said.