The World Health Organisation has designated the name of new Covid Strain B.1.1.529 that was first detected from South Africa this week as variant of concern, names it ‘Omicron’. This is a variant of concern that is WHO’s top category of worrying Covid variants.
The WHO said the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations change the behaviour of the virus, assembled on Friday to assess the B.1.1.529 variant, first reported to the world health body from South Africa on November 24.
“The new #COVID19 virus variant – Omicron – has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. This is why we need to speed up our efforts to deliver on #VaccinEquity ASAP and protect the most vulnerable everywhere,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted.
The new #COVID19 virus variant – Omicron – has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. This is why we need to speed up our efforts to deliver on #VaccinEquity ASAP and protect the most vulnerable everywhere. https://t.co/b9QBMJXtJl
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 26, 2021
Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a Variant of Concern, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron under its Greek-letter system.
The WHO said in a press release, “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. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa.”
The variant, first reported to WHO from South Africa on Wednesday, has also been linked in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. The WHO has countries to enhance surveillance and sequencing sweats to more understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a intimately available database.
Countries are also advised that where capacity exists and in collaboration with the transnational community, they should perform field examinations and laboratory assessments to ameliorate understanding of the implicit impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, inflexibility, effectiveness of public health and social measures, individual styles, vulnerable responses, antibody neutralisation, or other applicable characteristics.
“ The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterised by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the rearmost of which was generally the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased acutely, coinciding with the discovery ofB.1.1.529 variant, WHO said, adding that the first known verifiedB.1.1.529 infection was from a instance collected on November 9.
WHO said current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to descry this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one extensively habituated PCR test, one of the three target genes isn’t detected ( called S gene powerhouse or S gene target failure) and this test can thus be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing evidence. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than former surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage, the global health organisation said.
WHO added that there are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with the member states and to the public as needed.