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South Africa detects new COVID******
A baby cries as her mother receives her Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 in Diepsloot Township near Johannesburg on October 21.。
Scientists in South Africa said on Thursday they had detected a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers.。
The number of daily infections in Africa's hardest-hit country has increased tenfold since the start of the month.。
In response, Britain banned all travel from the country and five other southern African nations as concerns grow about the new variant, which scientists say could be more infectious than Delta and more resistant to current vaccines.。
"Unfortunately we have detected a new variant, which is a reason for concern in South Africa," virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a hastily called news conference.。
The variant, which goes by the scientific label B.1.1.529, "has a very high number of mutations," he said, adding that the World Health Organization may give it a Greek variant name – like the dominant Delta strain – on Friday.。
"It's unfortunately causing a resurgence of infections," he said.。
The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, de Oliveira added.。
The WHO said it is "closely monitoring" the reported variant and is expected to meet on Friday to determine if it should be designated a variant of "interest" or of "concern."
"Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study," the WHO added.。
'A major threat'
South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was of "serious concern" and behind an "exponential" increase in reported cases, making it "a major threat."
The country's daily number of infections hit 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month.。
Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted a fourth wave to hit South Africa starting around the middle of December, buoyed by travel ahead of the festive season.。
The government-run National Institute for Communicable Diseases said 22 positive cases of the new variant have been recorded in the country.。
The NICD said the number of detected cases and the percentage testing positive are "increasing quickly" in three of the country's provinces including Gauteng, home to the economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.。
A cluster outbreak was recently identified, concentrated at a higher education institute in Pretoria, the NICD added.。
Last year, the Beta variant of the virus first emerged in South Africa, although until now its infection numbers have been driven by Delta, which was originally detected in India.。
South Africa has the highest pandemic numbers in Africa with around 2.95 million cases, of which 89,657 have been fatal.。
Scientists said the new variant has at least 10 mutations, compared with two for Delta and three for Beta.。
"The concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said at a virtual press briefing.。
"It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has on any potential vaccines," she added.。
Neutralizing the variant is "complicated by the number of mutations this variant" contains, said one of the South African scientists Penny Moore.。
"This variant contains many mutations that we are not familiar with," she added.。
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it will soon meet South African experts to discuss the variant.。
"There are so many variants out there but some of them are of no consequence on the trajectory of the epidemic," Africa CDC head John Nkengasong told a news conference on Thursday.。
Guangdong posts robust foreign trade growth in first 3 quarters******
GUANGZHOU, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Guangdong Province, a manufacturing heartland and leading foreign trade player in China, reported robust trade growth in the first three quarters of 2021.
Foreign trade of the southern Chinese province totaled 6.03 trillion yuan (about 943 billion U.S. dollars) in the January-September period, up 18.6 percent year on year, the provincial customs authority said Friday.
Its exports grew 19.3 percent year on year to 3.68 trillion yuan, while imports increased 17.5 percent to 2.35 trillion yuan.
Private businesses continued to be a big contributor to Guangdong's foreign trade, registering an import and export volume of 3.43 trillion yuan in the first nine months, up 21.9 percent year on year and accounting for 56.9 percent of the total trade.
Foreign-funded enterprises contributed 37.7 percent of Guangdong's foreign trade.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations was Guangdong's largest trading partner in the first three quarters, with a foreign trade volume of 908.37 billion yuan, up 17.4 percent year on year. The province's trade with the European Union and the United States grew by over 16 percent year on year during the period. Enditem
Shanghai vows to be hub of winter sports in east China******
SHANGHAI, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- In spite of being a city lacking in natural snow, Shanghai is stepping up its efforts to become a winter sports hub as China gears up for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics next February.。
The Shanghai stop of the FIS Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour ended last weekend, winning praise from athletes and coaches.。
The organizers adopted cutting edge snow-making technology for the event and laid a 300-meter FIS standard cross-country ski track along the Huangpu River in Yangpu District.。
Zhang Bei, leader of China's national cross-country skiing team, highly praised the competition environment.。
"Cross-country skiing events used to be held in mountainous areas covered with forest," said Zhang. "To compete in a metropolis like Shanghai is just like a fairy tale. On the waterfront of the Huangpu River, the combination of skiing and scenery is just unbelievable."
Chinese skiier Chi Chunxue, who has qualified for the Winter Olympics, was also excited to compete by the riverside.。
"It is the first time for Shanghai to hold a ski event. I am proud to be part of the first batch of participants," she said.。
According to the 14th Five-Year Plan for Shanghai's sports development, the city will play a key role in promoting winter sports in southern and eastern China.。
In addition to professional competitions, the city expects winter sports to flourish at grassroots level.。
In December 2018, Shanghai launched winter sports projects on school campuses. There are now 40 Winter Olympic model schools and 73 schools with a winter sports focus in Shanghai.。
Shanghai Jiading No.1 High School introduced ice hockey in 2019 and built a 200 square-meter rink in September 2020.。
"Compared with other sports, ice hockey is more interesting and fresh to me, so I chose to learn it without any hesitation," said Li Yifei, a student from Shanghai Jiading No.1 High School.。
Shanghai Huangpu Luwan No.1 Central Primary School cooperated with professional stadiums to offer students winter sports courses including skating, curling and snowboarding.。
According to the Shanghai Sports Bureau, as of October 2021, Shanghai has a total of 13 ice rinks, 34 indoor ski resorts and three curling venues, with various winter sports fields across 13 districts.。
"To better meet the demands of citizens, Shanghai will continue to upgrade ice and snow venues and facilitate citizens' participation in winter sports, " said Yan Jiadong, chairman of the Shanghai Ice & Snow Sports Association. Enditem。