New SARS-CoV-2 variants in Africa

Africa is currently experiencing an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. As of 27 January 2021, at least 40 countries have experienced a second wave of the pandemic, including all countries in the Southern Africa region. This new wave of infections is thought to be associated with the emergence of variants that are more transmissible.
Preliminary findings show that three new similar but distinct Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, the 501Y/VUI – 202012/01, 501Y.V2, 501Y.V3, reported in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively, are significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with high viral shedding observed among cases. There is currently limited data on the extent to which these new variants have spread in Africa, but preliminary data show that the 501Y.V2 variant has been reported in 22 countries globally including South Africa, Ghana, Botswana and Zambia.

Africa CDC is working with partners and Member States to:
* Map the regional spread of the new variants in Africa through regional genomic surveillance;
* Support laboratory centres of excellence to address the emerging SARS-CoV-2 sequencing needs of Member States and ensure availability of geographically representative and timely data;
* Provide technical guidance for genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in Africa;
* Ensure quality-assured sequencing by specialized laboratories and regional laboratory hubs; and
* Etrengthen the capacity of national and regional laboratories to effectively respond to the emerging sequencing needs.


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