Cape Town, 27 November 2021 (TDI): The latest COVID-19 variant identified is named “Omicron”. It is a Greek name. This variant is identified in South Africa. According to UN Health agency experts, it is labeled as a variant of cancer. It has the potential for a large number of mutations along with a possible faster rate of infection.

Omicron

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a UN Specialized health agency. It is responsible for international public health. According to WHO, Omicron is a variant of concern. Moreover, it has an increased risk of reinfection compared to other strains.

 

The number of cases currently appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa. Furthermore, this virus has been detected faster than in previous surges in infection. According to WHO ” it may have a growth advantage”. According to the experts, countries need to enhance surveillance along with the genome sequence in order to better under this variant.

WHO agency technical advisory group known as the acronym TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. Moreover, it will communicate new findings to the member countries also to the public as needed.

Limited information on Omicron

WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, mentioned that the information about the now ‘Omicron’ variant is still limited. She mentioned that according to research this variant has a large number of mutations. Consequently, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves.

 

“There are fewer than 100 whole-genome sequences that are available, we don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves”, she mentioned during a question-answer session on Twitter.

Dr. Van Kerkhove explained that researchers are currently trying to determine where do the mutations took place. Moreover, to analyze what these mutations mean for diagnostics along with the vaccines.

“Do not discriminate” 

UN health agency urged countries to adopt a risk-based along with the scientific approach to travel bans. These restrictions are put forward because of the new variant identified in South Africa and Botswana.

Countries, for instance,  Britain, France, and Israel have moved to cancel direct flights from South Africa and surrounding nations. Van Kerkhove thanked researchers from these countries who shared information with the UN health agency. Moreover, she mentioned not to discriminate against these countries.

“Everyone out there, do not discriminate against countries that share their findings openly”, she urged.

According to South African health authorities, fewer than 100 cases of the new variant have been confirmed. These cases are reported largely among young people who have the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

Protect yourself 

The WHO officials reminded that people need to protect themselves from COVID. They should continue their precautions. For instance by wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

“Everybody that’s out there needs to understand that the more this virus circulates the more opportunities the virus has to change, the more mutations we will see”, said Dr. Van Kerkhove.