Geneva: British experts have claimed that a new variant of COVID-19 which has emerged in Botswana is the most mutated version of the deadly virus found so far. Now, opening up about this new strain, the World Health Organisation (WHO), on Friday, warned countries against recklessly imposing travel restrictions linked to the new B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19.
WHO has said that the countries should take a “risk-based and scientific approach”. Global authorities were alerted recently to a new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as scientists sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.
“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a UN briefing in Geneva. “The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”
It would take several weeks to determine the variant’s transmissibility and the effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics against it, he said, noting that 100 sequences of the variant have been reported so far.
People should continue to wear masks whenever possible, avoid large gatherings, ventilate rooms and maintain hand hygiene, Lindmeier added.
“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” said Maria van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist and WHO technical lead on COVID-19.
“This is one to watch, I would say we have a concern. But I think you would want us to have a concern,” she told viewers of an event on social media on Thursday.