Omicron, like an air of déjà vu? The Omicron variant will he dethrone its Delta counterpart which had shaken the world after its appearance, pushing many nations like Morocco to toughen health measures. Is the world reliving the pattern of the end of 2020?
As fears grow about the newly identified new variant Omicron, governments around the world are scrambling to protect their citizens from a potential epidemic.
The new mutation, which is more transmissible, was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hong Kong.
Faced with the rapid spread of Omicron, a number of countries have imposed travel bans and global markets have plunged.
The variant has a high number of mutations, around 50 in total. Importantly, South African genomics scientists said on Thursday that more than 30 mutations have been found in the spike protein – the structure the virus uses to get into the cells they attack.
Scientists praised South African health authorities for their rapid response to a Covid-19 outbreak in the country’s Gauteng province, which led to the discovery of the new variant.
When cases in the province began to increase at a higher rate than elsewhere, health experts focused on sequencing samples from those who tested positive, allowing them to quickly identify the variant B.1.1.529.
A high-risk variant according to the WHO
Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a global risk ” very high “ where outbreaks of Covid-19 could have “Serious consequences” in some areas, said the World Health Organization (WHO).
The UN agency, in technical advice to its 194 member states, urged them to speed up immunization of high priority groups and ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services.
“Omicron has an unprecedented number of cutting edge mutations, some of which are of concern for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic”, said the WHO, which specifies that “The overall overall risk associated with the new omicron worrying variant is assessed as very high”.
According to the same source, more research is needed to better understand Omicron’s potential to evade protection against vaccine-induced immunity and previous infections.
In addition, cases and infections of Covid-19 are expected in people vaccinated, although in a low and predictable proportion.
WHO urges countries to take key steps to step up efforts to monitor the Omicron variant, including ensuring their PCR testing equipment can detect it, increasing their sampling and sequencing of Covid-19 test samples at least double at 150 samples per week from the current average of 75, and examine past sequencing samples for potential signs of Omicron.
In September 2020, WHO and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a network of 12 laboratories to strengthen sequencing of the virus genome. Genomic surveillance has made significant progress since the start of 2021, with the continent recording a five-fold increase in the number of genomes sequenced.
Omicron, more dangerous than Delta?
While the virus can be more contagious, that doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous, with some experts suggesting people infected with the Omicron variant might experience a milder form of the disease.
“He’s got a mild illness with symptoms like sore muscles and fatigue for a day or two.” [et] not to feel good ”, Dr Angelique Coetzee told The Telegraph.
“So far, we have detected that infected people do not experience loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough ”, she added.
Experts have been warning for some time that a new vaccine-resistant Covid-19 mutation could emerge within a year if authorities around the world do not act.
Only 24% of South Africa’s population is fully immunized and the World Health Organization has also recently expressed concern about the low immunization rate among health workers in the region.
The World Health Organization has criticized rich countries for their “self-defeating” and “immoral” practice of hoarding vaccines against Covid-19 and breaking their promises to share doses with the developing world.