South African rand takes a hit on fears of new Covid variant with many mutations

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  • The South African rand fell sharply against the dollar on Friday after a new variant with multiple mutations was detected in the country.
  • The currency fell to 16.2255 against the greenback during trading hours in Asia on Friday and was last trading at 16.2106 per dollar.
  • Those losses came as investors turned to safe-haven currencies like the Japanese yen, which rose nearly 0.6% to 114.69 per dollar against the greenback.

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The South African rand fell sharply against the dollar on Friday after a new variant with multiple mutations was detected in the country.

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The currency fell as much as 16.2391 against the greenback during trading hours in Asia on Friday and was last trading down 1.6% at 16.2215 per dollar.

The losses came as investors turned to safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen, which rose nearly 0.6% to 114.69 per dollar against the greenback. The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against its peers, was at 96.712 – compared to the low of 96.5 seen earlier this week.

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World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with multiple mutations in the spike protein – the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body. The health agency is scheduling a special meeting on Friday to discuss what this could mean for vaccines and treatments.

According to the WHO, a small number of variants named B.1.1.529 have been detected in South Africa.

“We don’t know a lot about it yet. What we do know is that this variant carries a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can affect the behavior of the virus.” “WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organisation’s social media channels.

Hours after the announcement, the United Kingdom announced it would temporarily suspend flights to and from six African countries.

— CNBC’s Hannah Miao

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