JOHANNESBURG: The South African rand fell on Friday, breaching the 16.00 level to the dollar for the first time this year, as investors turned cautious after the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in the country.
At 0635 GMT, the rand traded at 16.2300 against the dollar, 1.58% weaker than its previous close.
Government bonds also weakened, with the yield on the benchmark 2030 maturity rising 13.5 basis points to 9.86%.
South African scientists said on Thursday they had detected a new COVID-19 variant that had a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which were concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible.
The news saw some countries, including Britain, restricting travel to South Africa and its neighbours.
South Africa has requested an urgent sitting of a World Health Organization (WHO) working group on virus evolution on Friday to discuss the new variant.