Article By: Evan Sacher
Over the past year, we have watched as COVID-19 has spread across the world, creating a pandemic that has undoubtedly changed everyone’s lives forever. It is no secret that people around the world have become increasingly arrogant by disregarding orders to quarantine and are acting recklessly in public by not staying safe distances from other individuals, and not wearing masks. With this growing lack of fear regarding the virus, mutations of the virus have begun to appear around the globe.
South Africa has been one of the epicenters for the mutation of this deadly virus. The variant seen in this country has been named 501.V2 and is projected to be much more transmissive than the original COVID-19 virus. The name is derived from the main mutation on the 501st amino acid where the N amino acid is changed to a Y. This creates a different spike glycoprotein which allows the virus to easily penetrate the cell membranes. The same mutation has been seen in the most recent United Kingdom variant despite the two variants having completely different origins. Due to how easy it is for 501.V2 to infect any person, the virus has begun spreading over the country at an alarming rate.
In response to the variant, most countries around the world immediately shut down flights to and from the southern nation of South Africa. Unfortunately, 501.V2 has already been sighted in Australia, England, and Japan. “Young, previously healthy people are now becoming very sick,” tweeted South African Minister of Health, Dr. Zweli Lawrence Mkhize. This tweet caused much concern throughout the world as young and healthy people have generally had an easier time combatting the symptoms of COVID-19. The validity of these claims has been called into question by many health professionals due to the country’s current statistics regarding the hospitalizations due to the variant coronavirus.
501.V2 was first sighted due to tests to determine the cause for a spike in South Africa during this time of year. Since the southern hemisphere is currently in its summer season, the virus was expected to have spread at a slower pace, but due to the variant, this was not the case.
“We can barely go out and curfew is at 9,” said high school junior and Cape Town resident, Sabrina Brivik, “Our economy can barely finance the medical supplies needed to combat this very scary virus. My family and I were once filled with hope that the virus would end soon, but we seem to be going through the worst stage possible. We are constantly given updates on the deadly virus that has taken so many lives and it hurts once we notice that some of the names are familiar, we all hope it can get better soon.” After it developed in mid-December, the variant stayed relatively quiet until the end of the month. Large, indoor Christmas parties acted as super spreader events to give 501.V2 the starting point it needed to begin its rampage. With the super spreader events being relatively recent as of early January, it is still in its earlier stages. Although the mutations of the virus have reduced the effectiveness of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, the Pfizer Vaccine has reportedly been able to neutralize the variant despite the mutations. With the Pfizer vaccine reportedly being proven effective for the mutation, hope is on the rise for the end of the pandemic despite the setbacks of 501.V2.