A medic tends to COVID-19 patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of South Africa Photograph:( Reuters )
Blaming the new COVID-19 variant on the surge in new cases, virologist Tulio de Oliveira said, ''Unfortunately we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa'
Scientists have detected a new coronavirus variant in South Africa that has a large number of mutations.
Across Africa, vaccination rates are lower than much of the rest of the world, with many countries struggling to secure enough doses.
Blaming the new COVID-19 variant on the surge in new cases, virologist Tulio de Oliveira said ''Unfortunately we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa.''
''It has a very high number of mutations,'' he added.
The variant goes by the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529 and has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.
Calling the variant a cause of "serious concern," Health Minister Joe Phaahla said it was detected among travellers from South Africa.
About 35 per cent of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated, higher than in most other African nations, but half the government's year-end target.
It has averaged 106,000 doses a day in the past 15 days in a nation of 60 million people.
Daily infections shot to more than 1,200 cases on Wednesday, from around 100 earlier this month.
The growth in infection numbers have been driven by the Delta variant until now.
The Beta variant of the virus was detected in South Africa last year.
(With inputs from agencies)