South Africa’s Scientists Say the 501Y.V2 Variant Moves More Easily and Faster, but It’s Not More Deadly

South Africa already has a clearer picture of the Covid-19 variant 501Y.V2 just a month after it was first detected and described to the public. While it may travel more easily and much faster, it is not more deadly, according to the eight scientists leading its study. The question of reinfection and the impact of vaccines needs more research.

On 18 January 2021, eight scientists leading the research studies in South Africa on this variant explained that 501Y.V2 seems to spread more easily and much faster than previous variants.

However, it is not causing more severe illness. It remains to be seen whether or not antibodies from the country’s first wave can recognise and kill this new variant, but data so far indicate that the reactions are mixed and reinfections remain at a stable level.

All scientists agreed that at this stage in what we know, current vaccines should be administered as they may well be able to tackle this variant too.

The co-chair of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, Prof Salim Abdool Karim, led the discussion and emphasised that “we’ve learnt a lot more in the month since the variant was first described to South Africa”. The scientific…


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