“Most alarming”: the danger of the new supermutant strain of the coronavirus “Omicron” explained

by time news

Although it was previously assumed that the new strain of COVID will be named after the Greek letter “Nu”, WHO experts called this variant “Omicron”.

UN health officials have warned that preliminary evidence suggests the strain has an increased risk of re-infection and may spread faster than the Delta variant.

“Based on the data presented, indicating a disastrous change in the epidemiology of COVID-19, WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as an option of concern called Omicron,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.

According to the Daily Mail, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has over 30 mutations – the largest number ever recorded in a variant and double that of Delta, which means it may be more persistent and transmissible than any previous version. COVID-19.

British Health Minister Sajid Javid has voiced concerns that the option may not only be more infectious, but also threaten to make vaccines less effective.

Meanwhile, Belgium has reported the discovery of Europe’s first case of infection with the Omicron variant, raising concerns about new travel restrictions due to the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays. According to the Belgian Ministry of Health, the presence of the new strain was confirmed in an unvaccinated young woman who returned from Egypt 11 days ago, indicating that a dangerous variant of the coronavirus is already spreading throughout the African continent. The European Union followed the UK’s move to ban flights from six African countries even before WHO classified the Omicron strain as a top-tier virus variant.

The new strain was first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa on November 24, but a sample was obtained from a patient on November 9.

Until recently, only 59 confirmed cases have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.

This variant has over 30 mutations – about twice as many as the Delta variant – which could potentially make it more transmissible and elude the protection afforded by a previous infection or vaccination.

Professor Neil Ferguson, member of the Science Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), said: “Option B.1.1.529 [«Омикрон»] has an unprecedented number of mutations in the gene for spike protein, a protein that is the target of most vaccines. Therefore, there are concerns that this option may have a greater potential to avoid prior immunity than previous options. ”

Professor John Edmunds, who advises the British government through the Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), warned that Omicron could create a “very, very, very difficult situation.” According to the expert, “all the evidence suggests that he will be able to avoid the existing immunity.” “We fear that this will largely lead to this,” he told PM on BBC Radio 4.

Professor Edmunds urged British ministers to consider expanding travel restrictions and prepare a plan to work with Omicron, because “at some point we will get this option here in the UK.” He suggested that mass testing and local restrictions be considered, while other preparations might include speeding up the booster program. “Even vaccines are not particularly effective against this new option, they work against Delta, and we are still fighting the Delta wave, and we definitely do not want to fight both options at the same time,” he said. “There are things we can do, and we need to do it very quickly.”

As the Daily Mail notes, the South African Medical Association’s statement that all cases of the Botswana variant were recorded in young people and caused only mild illness looks like a glimmer of hope. The global response to the new strain in South Africa has been described as a “tempest in a glass.”

But British Health Minister Sajid Javid warned that the pandemic is “far from over” after government experts acknowledged that a new super strain could already emerge in the UK and make vaccines 40% less effective. In a grim statement to deputies in the House of Commons, the head of the Ministry of Health said that the new Omicron strain posed “a significant risk to public health” and characterized its super-transmission and vaccine evasion capacity as “a huge international problem.”

Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA), warned that it was “possible” that the strain has already entered Britain, as people “arrive every day” here from countries where the strain was found. It is estimated that about 10,000 people in the past two weeks have arrived in the United Kingdom from South Africa alone, where most cases of the mutant strain have been found.

Flights to Britain from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe have been suspended since Friday noon, and all six countries have been added to the Red List by London.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Minister Javid said: “We are concerned that this new option could pose significant public health risks. The variant has an unusually high number of mutations. This is the only option with this designation, which makes it a higher priority than Beta. It shares many of the functions of the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants. Early indications suggest that this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and that existing vaccines may be less effective against it. “

The health minister added that the government continues to assess its travel restrictions to countries with close ties to South Africa and urged people to book booster shots as soon as possible.

Earlier, Dr. Susan Hopkins said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program of the new variant of the coronavirus: “The first look at it shows that it has many different mutations, it has 30 different mutations that seem to be important, that’s double the number in Delta “. And if you look at these mutations as mutations that increase infectivity, mutations that elude the immune response, both from vaccines and from natural immunity, mutations that cause increased transmissibility, this is a very complex mutation, there are new ones that we used to be. have not seen, so we do not know how they will interact together. So all this makes it a pretty challenging and interesting option, and I think we will need to know a lot more about it before we can confidently say that this is definitely the hardest option before. ” Dr. Hopkins added: “This is the most disturbing thing we’ve seen.”

.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.