Covid variant with most mutations discovered in Tanzania travellers

Little is know about the disease in Tanzania, which stopped publishing data last year

Matt Mathers
Friday 26 March 2021 22:09
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The world's most mutated Covid-19 variant has been found in travellers from Tanzania, according to new analysis.

A report submitted to the World Health Organisation by a health expert says the strain has several more mutations than any other version recorded so far.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of Krisp, a scientific institute that carries out genetic testing for 10 African nations, said his team found the variant in travellers arriving in Angola from Tanzania.

Krisp scientists will continue to analyse the variant to examine how it interacts with antibodies, de Oliveira added.

Little is known about the virus in Tanzania, whose late Covid-19 sceptic leader, president John Magufuli, died earlier this month.

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He was buried on Friday, nine days after authorities announced his passing away from heart disease.

Mr Magufuli was not seen in public for over two weeks before his death was announced, prompting speculation from opposition politicians that he had been struck down by the disease, although this has never been confirmed.

Tanzania stopped releasing data on Covid-19 during Mr Magufuli's time in office, raising fears of a hidden epidemic.

The East Africa country last reported virus statistics in May last year, when some 500 cases and 20 deaths were logged.

Mr Magufuli declared Tanzania "coronavirus-free" just a month later, with few lockdown restrictions imposed across the country - including in Zanzibar, which attracts tourists from across the globe.

Observers are keen to see whether his successor Samia Suluhu Hassan, the former vice president Hassan, will take measures like mandating mask-wearing or ordering vaccines to try to halt the spread of the pandemic.

During the requiem mass for Mr Magufuli, however, most of the attendees - including Ms Hassan herself - did not wear face coverings.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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