Coronavirus: How the 501Y.V2 variant was able to quickly dominate infections

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Understanding the behaviour of the latest variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is causing a surge in Covid-19 cases in South Africa during its second wave, all started with opening an email on Boxing Day last year, said Professor Salim Abdool Karim, the country's leading scientific advisor as chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19, during a panel discussion on Monday.

Checking his email was "a mistake", as Abdool Karim was about to settle down to enjoy a game of cricket. What he saw was a paper by researcher Filip Fratev, published in the pre-print server bioRxiv, and its findings kicked off his deepest concerns of this agonising variant.  

The discussion was also attended by eight other scientists leading the research in South Africa on this variant, which has been estimated to be 50% more easily and efficiently transmitted than previous variants.

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