The new variant of concern ‘Omicron’ first reported from South Africa has left health experts and governments across the world baffled. The variant which belongs to a lineage named B.1.1.529, has already spread to nearly a dozen countries including Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong, Botswana. The strain was first detected in South Africa’s Bostanwa province on November 24.
Omicron accounts for most of the daily cases in South Africa’s Guateng province. The test positivity rate in the area has increased from 2 percent to 9 percent.
So, what makes Omicron different from other variants and do vaccines work against it and what should you do to guard yourself.
Why is Omicron deemed as high risk?
Omicron has more than 30 spike mutations, more than double the number carried by Delta making it more potent and having a higher risk of causing reinfection
It has become the dominant strain in parts of South Africa surpassing the Delta variant and has seen a surge in cases lately.
It is still unclear it causes more severity in symptoms than other variants, has their distinct symptoms, or is more transmissible.
South African health authorities have conveyed to WHO and medical experts in India that among the Covid patients with the new variant, there is “very low hospitalisation” even when it is “highly transmissible” and patients are experiencing “extreme fatigue” even with mild disease. Throat irritation is another predominant symptom.
So far, the new variant Omicron that has gone multiple mutations has not resulted in any deaths among the infected.
Are vaccines effective against Omicron?
The significance of Covid-19 vaccines continues to remain critical to reducing death and severe illness.
WHO is working with its technical experts to know more about the properties of the variant and how it reacts to a vaccinated person.
The number of mutations is a worrying factor
It has been learned that top vaccine makers like Pfizer-BoNTech and Moderna are preparing to reformulate their vaccine shot if it becomes necessary in near future.
How to put up your guards against Omicron
Follow the Covid-19 protocol already in place
Avoid crowded places
Maintain social distance
Wear a mask and use sanitizer
Just when the world started going back to normal, the emergence of the new variant shows that the pandemic is far from over and Covid appropriate behavior is still the golden rule to break the chain of transmission and stay safe.