The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant to be “of concern” and named it Omicron.
In a statement seen by Great Dyke News 24, the WHO said the variant has a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk.
“The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021.
“The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant.
“In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs,” reads the statement.
According to the statement, the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces 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 a 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.
“There are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed, “ reads part of the statement.
Meanwhile WHO has urged individuals to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.