Covid 19 variant Omicron a concerning situation


Recently World Health Organization has declared that Omicron is a variant “of concern”. It is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2. This variant was first seen in South Africa. Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa had identified this new variant. This variant is more contagious than the highly infectious Delta variant. South Africa had announced a fourfold increase in Covid-19 cases and no doubt it is for this new variant.  

Several countries have announced travel ban to South African countries. AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria had said that this particular variant has at least 30 mutations in its spike protein which gives it the potential to bypass the immunity created by different vaccines. It has 30 mutations in its spike protein region that’s why it has developed immunoescape mechanisms inside it. Dr. Guleria emphasized on aggressive surveillance on international travelers.    

This new variant Omicron, has rapidly increased in Gauteng province of South Africa and it includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. It may already be present in most other provinces.

WHO on Friday, designated Omicron as a variant of concern. We do not know much about this new variant B.1.1.529 or Omicron. But we do know that B.1.1.529 variant has multiple spike protein mutations and preliminary analysis suggests it is highly contagious. Cluster of mutations known as H655Y + N679K + P681H is associated with more efficient cell entry or enhanced transmissibility. Omicron is a variant of concern because it is more transmissible in human body and vaccines are less effective. Experts are worried over the number of mutations which Omicron carries in its spike protein area. These mutations may make vaccines 40 per cent less effective.

Expert bodies have stressed on vaccination specially to protect high risk groups from hospitalization and death. High vaccination rate also can significantly reduce the strain on health systems.

We have to keep in mind that the pandemic is far from over and Covid-appropriate behavior is crucial for breaking the chain of transmission. Covid-appropriate behavior indicate masking, social distancing, good ventilation and washing hands regularly.

The Australian health department has detected Omicron variant in two passengers in Sydney. Both passengers had came from South Africa. As per the Italian media some people traveled to Mozambique has tested positive for the omicron variant. Five family members which include two school-age children also tested positive. UK has detected two cases of the Omicron variant in their country. As per Union health and family welfare minister Mansukh Mandaviya there is no Covid-19 variant detected in India so far. He said in a question answer session in Rajya Sabha during Parliament’s Winter Session.

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