Danish authorities ‘alert’ over Covid-19 variant

A file photo showing analysis of Covid-19 samples for the B117 variant in January 2021, at Aalborg University.
A file photo showing analysis of Covid-19 samples for the B117 variant in January 2021, at Aalborg University.Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark’s health authorities say they are monitoring the emergence of the new Covid-19 variant, B 1.1.529, which is yet to be detected in the Nordic country.

The B 1.1.529 variant emerged in South African province Gauteng. It has an unusually high number of surface protein mutations, eliciting concern from experts. The variant appears to be spreading rapidly in the province and has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.

The United Kingdom placed South Africa on its “red list” of Covid-19 travel restrictions on Friday and several other countries have suspended flights. The European Commission was reported earlier on Friday to be considering the same measure.

Denmark’s infectious disease agency, the State Serum Institute (SSI), said it does not have enough information on the variant to draw conclusions at the current time.

“We don’t know enough about it to say whether it causes problems with transmission or vaccines. It’s too early,” senior medical consultant Anders Fomsgaard said.

Data from South Africa however indicate a rapid increase in infections, but this has been seen with earlier variants such as the currently-dominant Delta, Fomsgaard added.

The SSI expert therefore urged caution over drawing conclusions before more data is available.

Although SSI is not currently concerned about the variant in Denmark, it is monitoring developments, Fomsgaard said.

“It has so many mutations in the spike protein, it must be a track record. So we are naturally very alert,” he said.

“This means it has altered its important surface proteins very much compared to (the variants) we already know,” he added.

“That could have consequences in the form of increased transmissibility and sensitivity to antibodies,” he said.

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