BRUSSELS (AP) — The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings.

But the risks of the variant remained largely unknown. Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood.

A jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the new version may be more transmissible than the delta variant and render vaccines less effective.

LONDON (AP)--South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.

It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana.

Health minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was linked to an “exponential rise” of cases in the last few days, although experts are still trying to determine if the new variant is actually responsible.

The World Health Organization has convened a technical group of experts to decide whether the new variant warrants being designated a variant of interest or a variant of concern.

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