Jean-Jacques Cornish

Terrifying new COVID variant emerges from Botswana

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South Africa’s National Institute For Communicable Diseases has confirmed that a new possibly vaccine-resistant COVID strain with 32 mutations has been detected. 

Virologists are calling it the most evolved COVID strain ever, and fear it could be worse that the Delta strain.

A COVID expert says what has been dubbed the Botswana strain may have emerged from an HIV/AIDS patient.

A relatively small number of cases of the strain called B.1.1.529 have been detected following genetic sequencing collaboration between the NICD and private laboratories. 

These cases have been in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Scientists are warning it could be worse than nearly anything else about.

The 32 mutations suggest it is highly transmissible and possible vaccine-resistant.

It has more alterations to its spike protein than any other variant.

Geneticist Professor Francois Balloux of University College London is quote in the Daily Mail as saying it likely emerged as a lingering infection in an immunocompromised patient, possible someone with undiagnosed HIV/AIDS.

Dr Tom Peacock a virologist at Imperial College, has described the variant’s mutations as “horrific”.

It was Peacock who first picked up on the spread of the variant.

The World Health Organisation is meeting in emergency session Friday to investigate the 100 cases of B.1.1.529 in Southern Africa.

South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla calls the variant a major threat and says it is behind the “exponential” increase in cases across the country.

There has been a quadrupling of COVID cases in South Africa to 2 500 daily. No fewer than 2 000 of these are in the heartland province of Gauteng.

,Professor Tulio de Oliviera, directing COVID surveillance in KwaZulu/Natal province says the variant has been spotted in nearly every corner of South Africa.

While he still uncertain  about its impact, other scientists are saying the variant might be so evolved that it becomes unstable.

De Oliveira  says it might be better at infecting vaccinated people than the world dominant strain.

In Gauteng Professor Bruce Mellado says this is the first sign of a fourth wave of COVID in South Africa

There are calls from medical experts in South Africa and Europe for the reinstatement of the so-called red list which would entail reimposing travel restrictions.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.