While the world is still trying to cope with the delta and delta plus variants, the coronavirus has once again mutated into another concerning one. Variant B.1.1.529, which has recently been detected in South Africa, has been tagged as a Variant of Concern (VOC) and named as 'Omicron' by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 27.
On November 24, the new COVID variant was first reported from South Africa to WHO.
South Africa's current epidemiological circumstance has been characterized by three distinct peaks, with the latest one being predominantly the Delta COVID variant, the WHO had recently revealed in an official release.
'A Variant Of Concern': WHO
"The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant,"
the statement said.
The B.1.1.529 variant has numerous mutations, some of which are highly concerning. The number of coronavirus cases of the Omicron variant also appears to be going up in almost every province in the country.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), on the basis of the evidence presented, suggested to the WHO that B.1.1.529 should be designated as a VOC, and as as a result, the World Health Organisation has designated the variant as one.
As per a Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) statement, the WHO also warned countries after a new mutated COVID variant has been classified in South Africa.
"Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage," the WHO said.
As per reports, Omicron is believed to be ineffective against the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the global market. However, a number of studies are underway to evaluate the variant and derive conclusions.
Lockdown In Europe
As a result of the new strain from South Africa looming as a massive danger to public health, with the existing concerns over the rapidly increasing infections that have already forced nations like Slovakia and Austria to impose lockdowns, as per an ANI report. Furthermore, numerous nations including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the US have announced travel restrictions on southern African countries amid the new COVID variant outbreak.
Earlier in the week, US President Joe Biden had stated that his administration will be restricting air travel from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Lesotho as a "precautionary" measure.
On November 26, countries like Canada, Austria, Italy, Germany, France the Netherlands were among those who joined the United Kingdom (UK) in restricting flights from southern Africa.
PM Modi To Chair Meeting
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing a meeting with top officials on Saturday, November 27, on the COVID-19 situation in India amid concerns about this new coronavirus variant. He will also discuss the vaccination coverage status in the country.