Monday, January 17, 2022
HomeHealth & FitnessNew COVID variant sparks international alarm: What do we know about Omicron?

New COVID variant sparks international alarm: What do we know about Omicron?

In Summary

  • South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla says new COVID variant is behind an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”.

A new COVID variant detected in South Africa is raising concerns among scientists.

The variant, which has high number of mutations, has triggered travel restrictions by a number of countries and regions.

South African authorities say 22 positive cases of the new variant, called B.1.1.529, have been recorded in the country.

What do we know about the new COVID variant?

  • WHO says that preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). 
  • Scientists say the variant as unusual constellation of mutations, which is worrying because they help it evade body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.
  • The Beta and Delta variants, which had three and two mutations respectively, caused devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic last year.
  • Scientists have said it is the most heavily mutated version yet, which means Covid vaccines, which were designed using the original strain from Wuhan, China, may not be as effective.
  • Scientists say they still have much to learn about the virus’s new mutations, and the WHO has said it will take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as experts work to determine how transmissible it is.

WHO says there are a number of studies on the new COVID variant are underway. “WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed.”


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