Australia in ‘best position’ as authorities monitor new COVID-19 strains  

Health authorities continue to monitor a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which has infected at least 9 people in South Africa since first being identified last year. 

The new covid strains have recently been detected in wastewater in Asia. 

Professor Adrian Esterman, Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of South Australia says the US Centre for Disease Control and its European equivalent are now monitoring the BA.2.87.1 subvariant, which has 30 changes in its spike protein, compared to its lineage strain. 

“This has, so far, been detected in South Africa and Southeast Asia. Although it appears to only have slow growth, that was also true of BA.2.86.1 which then mutated into JN.1,” Esterman says. 

“Although Australia is in its best position with respect to COVID-19 for some time, we should not get complacent. Last month there were over 250 active COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care homes, and only 36% of Australians aged 75 and over have had a booster shot within the last six months.  

“We see very little messaging from any of our governments encouraging elderly people to get vaccinated. This is not good enough. We should at the very least still be doing all we can to protect our vulnerable population.” 

Esterman says Australia is in a trough after the wave caused by the subvariant JN.1 at the end of last year. “However, that trough is still at a fairly high level, with over 22,000 confirmed cases so far in March, and presumably many times that number of actual cases,” he says. 

“The subvariant JN.1 and its descendants now account for pretty much all infections in Australia.” 

Messaging for new covid strains

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