A new Covid-19 variant of concern has been reported on 24 November 2021 from South Africa and has been named ‘Omicron’.
It is the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529. Another variant of concern(VOC) has been lined up for the countries to worry about and survive.
The much more dangerous new variant was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from a sample taken on 9 November 2021 in South Africa. The country is already reporting a three-time peak in the number of cases of the Delta variant.
The recent weeks have recognised a steep increase in the number of infections along with the Omicron variant raising its head. This variant could stall the recovery of the entire world from the two-year pandemic.
The known facts about Omicron
An independent group of experts and researchers has been established by WHO named, the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution(TAG-VE). It has been organized to survey and evaluate the advancement of the SARS-CoV-2 variant and assess if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus.
According to the TAG-VE, this new variant has numerous mutations- about 30- among which some are of grave concern. This incorporates a huge risk of reinfection in the patients as compared to the other VOCs. The mutations in the coronavirus’ spike protein could affect how easily it spreads among the population.
Omicron being dubbed as a ‘variant of concern’ by WHO, might be more contagious than the previous variants and bring more infections and fatalities. Its fast pace of spreading is a bit concerning.
Vaccine efficacy is questionable or not?
It is being speculated by the researchers that the Omicron variant might stand immune to the vaccines which are already taken by millions of people and diminish its effectiveness.
There might be two ways of looking into the game of vaccine effectiveness:-
- The transmission of the variant can be targeted. The number of cases infected with the new variant can be decreased which would otherwise have caused huge numbers without the vaccination.
- With the dwindled admission of patients to the hospital, the strain caused by the variant can be targeted and curtailed.
The researchers are themselves in no state to speak about the prospects of the variant and hence no clear verdict can be given about the vaccine usefulness as of now.
The research chair of virus-host dynamics at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and her team are already on the road to studying how the new variant acknowledges the antibodies.
Scientists and researchers in Pfizer and BioNTech are also occupied with this research on the Omicron and significantly working on the effectiveness of the vaccine against it. All the researchers will be able to provide the exact results only after a week or two.
Various speculations of different scientists
As the Covid Omicron strain has been detected on Sunday, 28th November 2021 in Australia for the first time after testing two passengers from South Africa while flying down to Sydney, the situation is serious. The strain has also been recognized in countries like Britain, Germany and Italy a day before Australia.
Dr Tulio de Oliveira at a news conference remarked that the new variant did surprise them and the full significance is still uncertain. So far, six people have been tested positive with the new variant in Botswana along with South Africa recording around 58 Omicron samples on the variant database.
The Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa has announced the release of around two to three hundred genetic sequences in the next few days.
Thus, the variant has started to spread its terror in countries like Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Belgium, Botswana and Hong Kong. The World Health Organisation(WHO) has disclosed a set of new guidelines for the countries of the world to set themselves ready to wage a war against the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.
-by SAMBHAVI YADAV