Australian PM says new Covid variant 'not a concern'

Source: 1News

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he's monitoring the new variant of Covid-19 which is worrying some epidemiologists.

Currently identified as B.1.1.529, the new variant has been found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.

Scientists say it is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people.

Speaking in Adelaide, Morrison said that while it hadn't yet been flagged with him as a "variant of concern", he was aware of how quickly things can move.

"We note the responses that are made by other countries, and we consider those in real time."

With 86 per cent of those over the age of 16 in Australia fully vaccinated, Morrison wanted to encourage those remaining to go and book a vaccination appointment.

"The best protection against any new variant including, and those that are present, is vaccination, and having those vaccinations."

The new variant has already seen the UK impose travel restrictions on six countries, with flights being temporarily banned.

All flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini are being suspended.

UK health secretary Sajid Javid said there were concerns the new variant “may be more transmissible” than the dominant delta strain, and “the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective" against it.

After a period of relatively low transmission in which South Africa recorded just over 200 new confirmed cases per day, in the past week the daily new cases rapidly increased to more than 1,200 on Wednesday. On Thursday they jumped to 2,465.

Amid the rise in cases, scientists studied the genomic sequencing and discovered the new variant.

One scientist told the BBC the new variant was the worst they had seen and radically different to the original that emerged in China two years ago.