The whole world is again swept in fear as the latest SARS-CoV-2 Variant, Omicron (B.1.1.529) is plunging into countries at a rapid rate. First identified in Botswana and South Africa on November 24th, Omicron is now reported in over 40 countries including the United States, France, Australia, Japan, Canada and Hong Kong.
However, latest evidence reveals that it was already present in Western Europe days before it was detected in South Africa. According to Dutch health authorities, Omicron variant of the corona virus was detected in samples of Netherlands dating from November 19th and 23rd. In addition, Belgium and Germany have also confirmed that the Omicron variant was detected in their test samples prior to 24th of November.
Health experts state that the symptoms of the Omicron variant are slightly different to that of the previous corona variants. Evidence indicates that for most people, the variant has caused only extremely mild symptoms such as headache, fatigue, body aches, running nose, sneezing and scratchy throat.
Based on the initial observations in South Africa, medical experts speculate that this SARS-CoV-2 Variant, Omicron, might be highly transmissible than its previous variant, Delta. Further, the World Health Organization has assessed the overall global risk for the Omicron variant as “very high”. Nevertheless, no deaths have been linked to Omicron as of now.
As a quick response to the rapid spread of this newly found variant, several countries have already banned the entry of tourists from South Africa while tightening their airport surveillance post-arrival testing. Moreover, pharmaceutical giants and vaccine producers like Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca have fixated on developing a tolerant vaccine to tackle the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2.
CBS News (2021). Omicron COVID variant was in Europe before South African scientists detected and flagged it to the world. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/omicron-variant-covid-in-europe-netherlands-before-alert-raised/ on 05th December 2021
Schofield. C., (2021). 6 key symptoms of Omicron Covid variant – and how they differ from other strains. National World. Retrieved from https://www.nationalworld.com/health/coronavirus/6-key-symptoms-of-omicron-covid-variant-and-how-they-differ-from-other-strains-3481669 on 05th December 2021
Voanews (2021). Omicron Variant Was in Western Europe Days Before First Identified in Southern Africa. Retrieved from https://www.voanews.com/a/omicron-variant-was-in-western-europe-days-before-first-identified-in-southern-africa/6333427.html on 05th December 2021
Associate Member – IOB