Omicron, the new variant of Covid-19, has already been detected in about 200 people. For now, this variant still has many very unknown countries and some countries have taken harsh measures, which other countries have exaggerated.
However, this case demonstrates that the authorities have made great strides in detecting and preventing potential risks of this kind. It’s about how quickly the Omicron version was detected and put on the UN monitoring list as a cause for concern.
What causes concern
The main thing that has caused concern in the scientific community is this large number of mutations in the spike protein genes used by the virus to stick to human cells. The concern is that this variant would have a higher transmissibility, and people who previously recovered from Covid-19 would be at a higher risk of reinfection with Omicron, more than other previously registered variants.
It is not yet clear how severe and transmissible this variant is. Experts say that the effectiveness of vaccines may decrease, but that does not mean that vaccination would not provide further protection.
The PCR test and rapid tests are effective in detecting the presence of this variant, the function of these tests being only to detect the presence of Covid-19. Genetic analysis in special laboratories is required to confirm the Omicron variant.
The fact that the number of hospitalizations has increased in South Africa does not necessarily mean that it is caused by a new variant, with only 24% of the population being vaccinated in the country. At the same time, the first infections with the new variant were registered among young people who usually have milder or moderate symptoms. Another factor is only 6% of the population of South Africa is over 65 years old, a category that is severely affected by Covid-19 (for comparison, in the Republic of Moldova this age group is 12.7% of the population) . ). Thus, scientists are yet to see how the Omicron variant would manifest itself in a country with an older population, but also with a higher level of vaccination.
When it appeared
The first sample of the new variant was collected in Botswana on November 9, then called variant B.1.1.529. It was not until November 24 that South Africa reported the first case. The next day, in a press conference, Richard Lesssels, professor of epidemiology at Kwazulu-Natal University, mentions that “There are many things we do not know about this variant. The type of mutation worries us, but now we have to work to include the importance of these variants and to understand in the general context of the pandemic ”.
On November 26, in Geneva, the World Health Organization has already put this option on the list of those who cause concern. At that point, the name for the public is applied – “Omicron”, a letter from the Greek alphabet. It should be noted that the WHO skipped the letters Nu and Xi, which were in line. In the first case, they mentioned that it sounds too similar to the word “new”, meaning “new” in English, and in the second case, Xi is a very common number in China.
Cases and restrictions
In the meantime, they have started to be registered in several cases of infection with this variant. On November 27, the United Kingdom announces the first two cases, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola are put on the red list, in a few hours other countries in southern Africa will be added – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia. And Switzerland has come under the watchful eye of people coming from the UK.
Already on November 28, several countries restricted countries in southern Africa. These are the United States, the European Union, Russia and Australia.
Announcements about the new variant caused a drop in international stock markets – Brent and West Texas Intermediate oil fell by 10 and 11%, respectively. Also around 6% lost the value of the South African currency.
However, there are fears that the prompt reaction to impose restrictions would be exaggerated. The WHO recommendation of 26 November states that states should not impose travel restrictions, but should implement travel “based on risk analysis and science”.
Angelique Coetzee, the South African scientist who discovered the Omicron variant and president of the South African Medical Association, says that so far only moderate or even mild symptoms are characteristic of the variant. “I don’t think it will pass easily, but I think and I hope it will be a disease with moderate symptoms. For now, I’m confident we can handle it, “said Coetzee.
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