Highly contagious, this new variant impacts the financial markets and calls into question the vaccine strategy since the current vaccines are designed to counter the initial Wuhan strain which has completely disappeared.
From what is known at present, this new variant called “B.1.1.529” or Nu variant, which appeared in South Africa, has “a high number of mutations”, according to scientists at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
So far, only about 30 cases have been detected in South Africa, Hong Kong and one case in Israel. But the fear of a global rebound of the epidemic has led many countries to ban the entry of travelers from southern Africa. This is the case in the United Kingdom, but also in France. Matignon announced on Friday 26 November that it would immediately suspend arrivals from seven southern African countries.
“Immune system bypassed”
Italy has also announced a ban on travelers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.
Germany is preparing to take the same precautionary measures as European countries are likely to do.
For the moment, South African scientists doubt the effectiveness of vaccines against the new form of the virus. “What concerns us is that this variant may not only have an increased transmission capacity, but also be able to bypass parts of our immune system,” explained South African professor Richard Lessells.
Financial markets infected
Among the first victims of this South African variant, the Asian financial markets. Indeed, all the stock market indicators are down, like the Nikkei which plunged by 3% in Tokyo.
The infection has spread to the European stock markets. At mid-day the CAC 40 recorded a fall of 4.40% in Paris.