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Two Fresh Cases Of South Africa Covid Variant B.1.1.529 Detected In Hong Kong: Report

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 virus has once again set the alarm bells ringing with two cases of the new Covid-19 strain detected in Hong Kong.

The latest variant known as B.1.1.529 has been detected in a traveler from South Africa while the other case was identified in a person quarantined in the hotel room opposite them, the Hong Kong government said on Thursday.

It seems the person may have been infected as the air flowed between the rooms, according to the government.

Explained | Why The New B.1.1.529 Covid-19 Variant Detected In South Africa Causing Alarm

Why is the new variant a cause of concern?

B.1.1.529 carries an unusually large number of mutations and is “clearly very different” from previous incarnations, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities informed at a briefing.

Botswana, a neighboring country in South Africa also detected the new variant in vaccinated people, informed Kereng Masupu, coordinator of the Presidential Covid-19 Task Force.

The UK announced halting flights temporarily from South Africa and five neighboring countries on concerns about B.1.1.529.

In fact, 12 people who were staying in rooms close to the two Hong Kong cases are following compulsory 14-day quarantines at a government facility, according to the statement.

Hong Kong remains one of the few places in the world that’s yet to have a recorded community outbreak of delta, the strain detected in India which became the dominant strain worldwide.

This may be lead to further tightening of rules in Hong Kong, which is already known as one of the toughest quarantine regimes in the world with travelers from some places isolated in hotels for up to 21 days, according to Bloomberg.

In fact, the city also banned the use of masks with exhalation valves or vents in hotel quarantine this week, because they don’t effectively filter exhaled air.

The initial probe into the case found that someone may have transmitted the virus to others while wearing one of these masks when their hotel room door was open. It’s unclear from government statements whether this person is the carrier of the new variant.

Hong Kong also makes it mandatory for air purifiers to be installed in hotels’ quarantine rooms if the guest intends to exercise, to “remove aerosol generated during exercise,” according to a government statement.

Other countries such as Australia have seen cases of Covid transmitted in the quarantine environment, fueling criticism that hotels aren’t adequate locations for housing travelers and suspected cases.

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