The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday classified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, currently circulating in South Africa, as a “variant of concern”. He also named it Omicron.
The Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) had identified the variant on Monday. He had detected a group of related SARS-CoV-2 viruses, which belong to a lineage named B.1.1.529.
The first indications are that this variant may be even more transmissible than the highly infectious Delta variant, and that current vaccines may be less effective against it.
What do we know so far about Omicron?
New variants continue to emerge as SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the importance of each mutation becomes known after some time. But health authorities around the world need to constantly monitor which ones are more important than others. It was during such an exercise that the NGS-SA detected B.1.1.529.
From what is currently known, B.1.1.529 exhibits multiple spike protein mutations, and preliminary analysis suggests that it is highly infectious. South Africa has reported a fourfold increase in new cases over the past two weeks, coinciding with the emergence of B.1.1.529.
On Thursday, the NGS-SA said B.1.1.529 had rapidly increased in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, and may already be present in most provinces. The NGS-SA said the sustained increase in cases may be fueled by cluster epidemics.
With an eye on reports from around the world on Omicron, the new ‘worrying variant’ of Covid, the central government on Sunday issued revised guidelines for international travelers arriving from Europe, including the UK, and 11 other countries “At risk,” requiring testing on arrival, home quarantine for seven days if negative, and retesting on day eight.
The Department of Health has called on all states to ensure that for international travelers from countries other than those labeled “at risk,” five percent of the total number of passengers on a flight will have to undergo random testing at their location. arrival at airports.