Alexander De Croo made the comments during a press conference after international markets plummeted in response to the news that the ‘Nu’ variant of the virus had been discovered in Botswana and spread across South Africa.
“You could say that this is Covid-21 instead of Covid-19: it is three times more infectious than the original virus,” said De Croo.
His remarks came in the aftermath of sustained media panic over the new mutation and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) describing the variant as “the worst one we’ve seen so far.”
It was confirmed that the B.1.1.529 variant had reached Europe after it was detected in someone who had entered Belgium after traveling to Egypt.
Some European countries are already tightening COVID restrictions despite the fact that very little is known about the new strain and it could take weeks to determine if it is a major threat.
However, international alarm over the mutation was questioned by South Africa’s medical chief Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who described the response as a “storm in a teacup.”
According to Coetzee, South Africa has only recorded “very very mild cases” of the variant so far.