New Covid variant Omicron : What do we know? 1st December 2021 – Posted in: Virus – Tags: , , , ,

The new variant of Covid-19, called Omicron variant or Covid variant Omicron, was first discovered on 11 November 2021 in Botswana, South Africa.

Scientists estimate that about 90% of the new coronavirus infections in South Africa are based on this new variant, which may also have spread to eight other provinces.

When international travellers began testing positive for the new variant, countries began closing borders on certain routes or taking other measures to restrict travel.

On Friday (26.11.2021), Belgium recorded the first confirmed case of the omicron variant in Europe.

As of 29 November, there have been 13 confirmed cases of omicron in the Netherlands, and further infections of this variant have been recorded in other countries such as Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, France, Canada and Australia. At the end of the week, there were hundreds of covid swabs taken at Amsterdam airport by passengers on two flights from South Africa.

How dangerous is the new variant?

Some researchers are concerned about the new variant because it shows a significant number of coronavirus mutations. In fact, some 32 mutations in the spike protein have been found, whereas the delta variant, which is reputed to be highly infectious, has only eight.

Although the number of mutations in the spike protein is not an exact indication of how dangerous a new variant is, it does suggest that the human immune system may find it more difficult to fight the new variant. There are indications that omicron may escape an immune response, putting people at greater risk.

According to Dr Ulrich Elling, following studies in the Vienna laboratory, the new variant may be more infectious than the 500% delta.

However, the new variant is not necessarily more serious than previous infections. However, it could spread faster, putting pressure on the health systems of countries around the world.

covid variant omicron

What does the WHO think?

At present, there is insufficient data available to the scientific community to understand how contagious the new variant actually is. South Africa decided to call a meeting with the WHO to discuss the consequences of the new variant.

After the meeting, the WHO classified B.1.1.529 as a ‘variant of concern’. It gave it the name omicron, based on the Greek alphabet, as was done with other variants.

How did the new variant develop?

One theory is that the new variant emerged with all its mutations in a big explosion. It would appear that the new variant was obtained following a chronic infection of a person whose immune system was already weak from untreated HIV/AIDS.

Is there any connection with the beta variant?

Across the continent, South Africa was the most affected by the coronavirus. The country has had 3 million COVID cases and about 90 000 people have died with or from the virus.

The high number of deaths that occurred in South Africa was attributed to the new variant. But over time, the delta variant, which is even more aggressive than the beta variant, has largely overtaken beta in South Africa, as in other parts of the world.

variant omicron

Can we stop the new variant?

It is difficult to know how to stop the new variant. In a globalised world like ours, the virus and its variants do not stop at national borders. However, it is certainly possible to slow down the spread of this new variant.

The cases in Hong Kong and Israel have been traced back to what happened in southern Africa. Many countries have stopped flights to and from that part of the continent. Italy also took these measures to temporarily buffer the situation.

All 27 European Union member states decided to temporarily suspend travel from seven southern African nations on Friday. The United States also moved to restrict travel for non-US citizens from South Africa and seven other countries from Monday onwards.

Although travel restrictions may be a means of slowing the spread of the variant, the first cases of omicron have been detected since mid-November and it is only now that these measures are being taken. The omicron variant is probably already present worldwide.

References

  1. COVID: What we know about the omicron variant
  2. Covid live news: UK battles new virus variant as Omicron is detected around the world – as it happened