On 9 November 2021, South Africa has confirmed it is being punished by discovering Omicron, a concerning new variant of Covid-19.
The discovery of a new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant by South African health authorities has led the country to be punished rather than applauded. However, scientist praised South Africa for their quick response to the new variant outbreak.
The head of the South African Medical Association told the BBC that the cases found so far in South Africa – where only about 24% of the population is fully vaccinated – were not severe, but said investigations into the variant were still at a very early stage.
The World Health Organization (WHO) described the newly identified coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron. But, the WHO said that it takes them a couple of weeks to understand the new variant, as scientists are working to dertmone how transmissible it was.
Many people arriving to Netherland from South Africa are being tested positive with the new variant. Also, several cases were identified in different countries, including two in the UK.
What is Omicron variant?
The new variant, Omicron, has a large number of mutations, some of which are worrying. Omicorn shows increased risk of reinfection, as compared to other VOCs as stated by WHO. The cases appeared to increase in a surprising way in different cities in South Africa. Many labs have said that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes cannot be detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can be used as marker for this variant, requiring 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, compared to other variant.
Will vaccines work against the Omicron variant?
There is not yet enough evidence to say that the vaccines will kill the new variant, and as WHO stated that it takes them 2-4 weeks to determine that.