There is a new variant of COVID-19, the virus that has caused a global pandemic that began in early 2020 and shows no signs of letting up.
Here’s what we know about it:
- Official name – SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529. Classified on 26/11/22 by WHO and named Omicron
- First reported to WHO on 24/11/21
- First discovered in specimen taken on 9th November 2021
- Has a wide range of mutations, thought to make it more infectious and not targeted by current vaccines available
- Seems to be localised to South Africa but is now in other countries (including the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Italy) due to people traveling from South Africa.
- It carries an increased risk of reinfection
- Has been designated a VOC – variant of concern
According to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – who speaking after consulting with scientists – Omicron can be spread rapidly between two people, even those who are double vaccinated.
How has the world reacted?
Several countries have banned travel from South Africa and up to eight other surrounding countries. In the UK, travellers are now required to take a PCR test upon returning or entering the country regardless of vaccination status. Face masks have also become compulsory in shops and public transport.
What do we do now?
- Continue to maintain safe hygiene practices
- Keep any small spaces well ventilated
- Maintain social distance of at least 2m
- Avoid heavily crowded areas or wear a face mask where necessary
For more information:
- World Health Organization
- U.K. confirms two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant | New York Times