The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the latest variant of COVID-19, Omicron, a variant of concern after being first detected in South Africa on November 11th, 2021. This decision has been made by the Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution due to the nature of the variant having several mutations which may impact its behavior in terms of transmission and onset of symptoms.
What do we know so far?
It’s still very early days with this variant and we will not know the full extent of transmissibility and severity of the disease for a couple of weeks in South Africa, and even longer around the rest of the world. From early indications, Dr Anthony Fauci has suggested Omicron may be milder than prior variants, however, it is highly transmissible and likely to be more so than Delta. With the new variant now in Europe, the United States, and various other countries, it’s now just a matter of time until we see how widespread this variant is.
What is the impact of this?
With the winter season underway in the Northern Hemisphere, people are now spending more time indoors where the virus has a greater chance of transmission, and this raises some serious concern with the looming uncertainty of this new variant. Observing the events of last winter, this saw a surge in cases which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. If case numbers surge again, then this has the potential to overwhelm healthcare systems all over the world, cause economic hardship, and bring back mandates and restrictions.
What can we do?
Throughout the pandemic, there have been some very simple measures that make a dramatic difference in the effect COVID has on our lives:
France 24. (2021, December 7). Omicron variant 'almost certainly' not more severe than Delta, Fauci tells AFP. Retrieved from France 24: https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211207-omicron-variant-almost-certainly-not-more-severe-than-delta-fauci-tells-afp
WHO. (2021, November 26). Update on Omicron. Retrieved from World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron