South Africa’s health minister has announced the country has identified a new strain of coronavirus that is contributing to another surge of infections, Reuters reported.

“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus – currently termed 501.V2 Variant – has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” Zweli Mkhize, South Africa’s minister of health tweeted.

“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” Mkhize said in another tweet. (RELATED: How An All-Or-Nothing Approach To Pandemic Leadership Has Eroded Public Trust)

The South African researchers who discovered the new COVID-19 variant are in contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) about their discovery, Reuters reported.

“We are working with them with our SARS-COV-2 Virus evolution working group. They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission,” Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, according to Reuters.

The WHO claims there is no major behavioral changes with the new strain of the virus, Reuters reports.

However, South African health authorities says the new strain of COVID-19 has enhanced transmission abilities, and it is too early to determine if current vaccines can counteract the new strain, Reuters reported.

South Africa has had more than 800,000 coronavirus cases, and over 24,000 coronavirus deaths, as of Friday morning, according to Worldometers. More than 780,000 individuals in South Africa who have had coronavirus have recovered.

A new strain of COVID-19, named VUI – 202012/01, was identified on Dec. 13 by Public Health England (PHE), according to Health. Researchers in the U.K. are investigating whether the 1,108 identified cases of the new strain in Britain are contributing to faster community spread, Health reported.

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