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The new C.1.2 COVID-19 variant ‘does not appear’ to be spreading, WHO says

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A new COVID-19 variant that researchers have flagged as “concerning” due to the large number of mutations it possesses does not appear to be spreading, according to the World Health Organization.

The statements were made in a briefing Tuesday, according to Reuters.

“It does not appear to be increasing in circulation,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris, who added that the variant was also not classified yet as a “variant of concern.”

Read more: What is the new C.1.2 COVID-19 variant? Here’s what we know so far

The United Nations’ health agency also confirmed that it would be monitoring the variant as the pandemic progressed.

The variant, named C.1.2, was first discovered in South Africa in May, and has spread to a majority of the country’s provinces and seven other countries so far.

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In a study published last week, South African scientists raised concern over the variant due to the large number of mutations it possessed — including some associated with increased transmissibility and resistance to antibodies fighting the disease.

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The study is yet to be peer reviewed.

A news release sent out Monday from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that the C.1.2 lineage had several mutations in other COVID-19 variants of concern or interest, as well as other mutations which were “novel.”

“Based on our understanding of the mutations in this variant, we suspect that it might be able to partially evade the immune response, but despite this, that vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalization and death,” read the release.

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A series of tweets posted Monday by the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead also pointed to the variant’s lack of spread.

“At this time, C.1.2 does not appear to be [upwards] in circulation, but we need more sequencing to be conducted & shared globally,” wrote Maria Van Kerkhove, who also added that about 100 sequences of the variant had been identified since it was first discovered months ago.

Van Kerkhove added that Delta, an extremely transmissible variant of COVID-19 that has driven new waves of the pandemic in Canada and across the world, appeared to still be the more dominant variant based on available sequences.

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Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of infectious diseases division at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., told Global News in an interview Monday that he’s going to be skeptical of the concern over C.1.2 unless he sees more compelling data over the next couple of months.

“I think when it comes to C.1.2, there’s a lot of speculation saying, ‘wow, you know some of these mutations we haven’t seen a lot of, maybe they’re going to represent immune escape or something,’ but it hasn’t been borne out,” said Evans.

“I think Delta is going to outcompete it and it’ll probably die off. That’s my speculation.”

with files from Reuters

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