New potent variant of coronavirus called Nu found in Botswana, South Africa and HK has two cases


25th November 2021 – (Hong Kong) According to Sky News, A new variant of the coronavirus with a “constellation” of mutations has been identified in Botswana. Designated as B.1.1.529, scientists are still unclear whether existing antibodies would react well to the variant – which has 32 spike protein mutations. Spike proteins are what viruses use to get into human cells, and some of the vaccines work by training the body to recognise the spikes and neutralise them. Mutations on the spike can therefore potentially prove problematic for mRNA doses, like Pfizer and Moderna. However, with only a handful of recorded cases – three in Botswana, six in South Africa and one in Hong Kong from someone who travelled from South Africa, scientists are hopeful that COVID cases caused by the new virus specimen will not be widespread.

The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health announced today (25th) that according to the results of whole-genome sequencing conducted by the University of Hong Kong, it was further confirmed that the genome sequences of the two cases (Cases No. 12388 and 12404) were very similar and contained newly emerged virus strains i.e. “B.1.1.529”, similar to the new variant virus found in South Africa and Botswana. The patient is Case No.12388 who arrived from South Africa involving a 36-year-old man who took the flight “QR818” from South Africa via Qatar on 11th November and arrived in Hong Kong before checking into Regal Airport Hotel in Chek Lap Kok for quarantine. The other 62-year-old patient who returned from Canada lived opposite his hotel room.

The World Health Organisation has designated this pedigree as a virus strain (Variants Under Monitoring) that is undergoing further monitoring. The Center for Protection will closely monitor the latest developments. In addition, due to the two cases mentioned above, the Centre for Health Protection has arranged for 12 quarantined persons staying in 12 rooms on the same floor of Regal Airport Hotel to go to the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre for an additional 14-day compulsory quarantine. There are no confirmed cases as present. It has been reported that “B.1.1.529” may be named “Nu”.

The variant, now called B.1.1.529, was reported on just days ago after a small cluster of cases were spotted by Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London in the U.K.

Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, has said the variant may be able to resist immunity.

He wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “This one is worrying and I’ve not said that since Delta.B.1.1.529 was added to the World Health Organisation’s list of variants under monitoring on Wednesday.