Omicron: ‘Bad news – but not doomsday.’

On Friday, the WHO said the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa’s provinces. 

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the UN public health body said in a statement.

It said “the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November”.

The WHO said it would take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists worked to determine how transmissible it was… 

A top UK health official warned that vaccines would “almost certainly” be less effective against the new variant.

But Professor James Naismith, a structural biologist from the University of Oxford, added: “It is bad news but it’s not doomsday.”

He said mutations in the variant suggested it may spread more quickly – but transmissibility “is not just as simple as ‘this amino acid does this'” and was determined by how mutations worked together.

Only about 24% of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, which could spur a rapid spread of cases there, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), told the BBC on Friday.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59438723

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