If you’ve been reading the news or scrolling on Twitter at all this week, you’ve probably come across frenzied speculation of a new strain of COVID-19 called the C.1.2 variant.

There’s a lot of confusion and fear online about the new variant and its implications, so here’s everything we know (and don’t know) about the new strain so far.

The C.1.2 variant was detected in South Africa

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa issued an alert about the “C.1.2 lineage”, saying it’s been detected all over the country, but at a low rate – Delta is still the dominant variant.

A pre-print, non peer-reviewed paper published about the variant said it’s been detected in seven other countries across Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

It’s being studied because of the particular mutations it carries

The reason scientists are studying the C.1.2 variant is because it’s got mutations in its genome that are similar to variants of concern like Delta.

An alert was issued because of C.1.2’s particular mutations, which have come up in other variants of concern.

“Any time we see those particular mutations come up, we’d like to keep an eye on the variant to see what it’s going to do. These mutations may affect things like whether it evades the immune response, or transmits faster,” University of Sydney’s Central Clinical School, Dr Megan Steain, said per The Guardian.

It’s not officially listed by WHO

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases is keeping an eye on the frequency and behaviour of C.1.2, and there are ongoing tests happening to figure out the impact its mutations have on infectiousness and vaccine resistance.

Basically, there isn’t enough info about this variant available for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to decide if C.1.2 is a variant of concern or even a variant of interest.

The study released about it is limited

“The study describes this viral variant’s genetic features but doesn’t give us new evidence about signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the incubation period, serial interval, viral load, transmission efficiency, immune response or ongoing vaccine effectiveness,” clinical virologist at the University of Queensland Associate, Professor Ian Mackay, said.

“We will learn more about C.1.2 in time, but as yet we have no real indication that this most recently popularised variant should be an urgent cause of concern. We do know the viruses harbour some mutations that may be a cause for concern when viewed individually. How the constellation of mutations interacts in the final viral package and once in humans though, is unclear.”

It’s not clear how it’ll respond to vaccines, but there’s no need to panic

While experts are saying that it’s possible the new variant may have some resistance to vaccines, there still is extremely limited information on the variant, and you are still likely protected from the worst effects of COVID if you are vaccinated.

“There has been much concern expressed in the social media and the mainstream media about the C.1.2 variant just discovered in South Africa. However, it is too early to determine whether or not it is likely to create major problems or indeed even take over from the Delta variant,” Chair of Biostatistics at the University of South Australia, Professor Adrian Esterman, said.

“Similar concerns were expressed about the Iota variant first detected in New York, and that was swiftly overtaken by the Delta variant. At the moment, C.1.2 is not even a variant of interest, let alone a variant of concern. So, I think that we should remain calm, let the excellent South African virologists do their work, and watch carefully what happens over the next few weeks.”

All adult Aussies (yep, even if those of us under 40) are currently able to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Click here to see find vaccination clinics near you, and talk to a doctor about your options.

Remember, the best vaccine is the first one you can get, and that’ll be our ticket out of this mess.