THE NEW VARIANT OF COVID-19: OMICRON

The New Variant of Covid 19, Corona termed Omicron variant has brought restlessness throughout the globe. The technical term of this virus is B.1.1.529, which according to WHO, was first reported from South Africa on 24th November 2021. The effect of the virus was felt different in different counties, and hence the researcher termed them as Alpha and Beta virus. Alpha, the technical term of which is B.1.1.7, emerged in the United Kingdom and is believed to be more vital than beta, the technical term of which is B.1.351, which emerged in South Africa.

What do we know about the New Variant of Covid 19 also known as Omicron Variant?

After the first case of the Omicron was detected in South Africa, WHO immediately started to alert the world of its existence. It also urged people to stop mainstreaming the virus name with a certain country or ethnicity.  Experts claim to have limited knowledge on the Omicron variant, how it acts or how much of a threat it possesses. This limited information has made governments throughout the world very anxious and may have already started to prepare the nation for another panic wave. Since the proliferation of the Variant in many European states, the border has started to get tightened and many countries are already restricting international travel.

  • The UK confirms more than multiple cases of Omicron variant.
  • Switzerland has voted on virus restrictions since this Sunday.
  • Asian countries have started to boost the vaccination process.
  • Scientists suspect the virus to be more infectious and less susceptible to vaccination, as  its effects are yet to examine.
  • There is a high chance that the virus has already spread worldwide and its effect can be seen in near days.
  • The European Union has restricted the travel to and from seven countries in Southern Africa- i.e.; Botswanan, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
  • The United States and South Korea have targeted these countries and Malawi.
  • Many gulf countries too have started to adopt these restrictions.
  • The Australian border which was announced to be re-opened for immigrants is reconsidering their decisions.
  • UK to reapply the mandatory mask rule soon.
  • New York Governor declares a state of emergency after the possible anticipation of a New Variant of Covid,

 

What makes the new omicron Variant different from the other variants?

The Omicron Variant has various mutations which haven’t been visible before, and a few that has. A large number of these mutant’s effects are on the spike protein of the virus making it the major global concern, as that is the target of most vaccines. After a standard test on labs by various researchers, it was found that an “S-gene dropout” is present in the Omicron variant. However, it is not mandatory that all the S-gene dropouts are Omicron. A full genomic sequencing is required to be done in order to be sure.

S-gene dropout:

S-gene dropout makes tracking positive cases which resemble the variant pretty easy.

Genomic Sequencing:

Genomic sequencing is a laboratory method used to determine the overall genetic makeup of a specific cell type or an organism. The final result obtained from this is used to diagnose and treat possible diseases.

In the case of this variant, analyzing the genetic make-up is a crucial part. A certain percentage of the results from the positive cases in the UK every week are sent for genomic sequencing. After analyzing the provided genetic material, scientists can confirm whether or not someone is positive with Omicron.

What is the vaccination status?

The advisor body to the government on vaccination, the joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), of England has recommended a few suggestions to its government, which can be abided by the other countries as well:

  • Vaccinations alone may not be fully effective to the emerging variants, so boosters should be encouraged within a few weeks of the second dose.
  • Booster jabs should be made available to every 18+ individuals.
  • 2nd dose of Vaccination should be provided to children aged 12-15 within the first three months after their first dose.
  • Since it is yet not sure whether or not the vaccinated people are immune to Omicron Variant, the country needs to start imposing strict rules for gatherings and make masks mandatory.
  • Since the fear of new variants has spiked the threat worldwide, it is better to be prepared beforehand if the situation takes a catastrophic turn.

 

How is the Omicron variant detected?

WHO is yet to announce what are the actual symptoms of this new variant or how severely can it affect a person, its transition period, and how fast it transfers from person to person. Since this variant has various mutations, some of which are new to the researchers as well, so the genomic sequencing is prioritized during the covid identification.

List of the Countries where the New Variant of Covid has been detected:

1 Australia:

Two passengers traveling from Southern Africa to Sydney were detected with the new variant.

  1. Italy:

Five members of a single family, including 2 children who were flying in from Mozambique were detected by the new variant.

  1. Germany:

Two travelers flying in from South Africa were detected with the new covid variant.

  1. Netherlands:

61 new covid case were reported amongst the passengers who flew in from South Africa, and it is believed that some of them carry new variants with them.

  1. Britain:

Two cases with new variants were reported amongst the passengers who flew in from Southern Africa.

  1. Israel:

The country under immediate emergency measures after reporting its first case.

  1. Hong Kong:

Honk Kong has reported two cases of new covid variant.

  1. Botswana:

It has reported one case of covid variant so far.

  1. Belgium:

One positive case of a new variant was detected in Belgium airport.

  1. Switzerland:

Although the case is yet not reported as a new variant there is a probable cause found in the country. 

We may soon find many counties ‘ names up on the list if we are not cautious enough from this very day. 

 What role does vaccination play for immunization against the New Variant of Covid?

This can be a subjective query. Various laboratories are working to come up with an explanation to whether or not the vaccination will protect people from the new variant but a satisfactory answer is yet to come. The head of WHO, however, suggests everyone be fully vaccinated and even get the full dose of booster just in case. The vaccination is proven to bring no harm to humans as it has been approved by global experts so it’s a wise choice to remain on the safer side.

It is pretty much clear by now that vaccinated people have larger chances of survival in comparison to the non-vaccinated ones. Even if the virus does get inside the body, the presence of the vaccine and the booster will help the body fight the mutant virus to some extent if not fully.

The odds of global Lockdown due to New Variant of Covid

Many nations have already announced the precautions measures to ensure that there would be no reason or urge for the nationwide lockdown as of 2020. Every nation has started to implement covid rules and published necessary guidelines for the safety of its citizens. It’s fair to say that the probability of a lockdown is very rare, but we may expect tight border issues within a few weeks.

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