A new variant of the novel coronavirus has been found, sparking concern about how far and wide it can spread. But it seems some of those worries may be misplaced ... for now.

Is there a new South African COVID-19 variant?

Scientists have discovered a new coronavirus variant in South Africa, which has already spread to a number of countries, including England, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

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The new C.1.2 variant has been found to be more infectious and evade vaccines, according to a new study, which has not been peer-reviewed but has been published on medrxiv.

  • The study found this new variant has multiple mutations that “are associated with increased transmissibility” and can evade current COVID-19 vaccine protection, per Bloomberg.

This variant is different than the B.1.351 variant — which was first discovered in South Africa — that was first reported on in April, as I wrote for the Deseret News. That variant has become known as the beta variant, according to the World Health Organization.

  • The new C.1.2 variant has been found to be related to the C.1 variant, which was originally discovered in January 2021.

Should you be worried about the C.1.2 variant?

Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 for the World Health Organization, said there have been few people diagnosed with this COVID-19 variant, so it hasn’t spread far yet.

  • “To date there are ~100 sequences of C.1.2 reported globally, the earliest reports from May ’21 from” South Africa, she wrote on Twitter.
  • “At this time, C.1.2 does not appear to be” rising “in circulation,” she added.
  • “Monitoring & assessment of variants is ongoing & critically important to understand the evolution of this virus, in fighting COVID-19 & adapting strategies as needed,” she said.

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According to CNN, the multiple mutations factor shouldn’t worry you quite yet.

  • “Having more mutations does not necessarily equal more danger — some mutations can weaken a virus and it’s the combination of changes that affects whether a virus becomes more efficient. One extra mutation could cancel out the effects of another,” according to CNN.