The new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, was first detected in South Africa on November 25, 2021, and then characterised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a variant of concern”. The new variant has mutations that are associated with higher transmission and immune evasion.
The preliminary test of the Omicron B.1.1.529 variant showed multiple mutations (30) in the region encoding spike protein—responsible for the virus’ perforation into human cells. So far, it has shown more than difference from existing variants.
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This has raised concerns for “at risk” nations i.e., nations that have already reported a number of emerging cases, including India.
Countries such as Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, India, Korea, Singapore, and the UK, have reported cases with the Omicron variant, till now.
Omicron is expected to show a soaring rate of transmission because of the increase in virulence of change, in the clinical presentation of the disease.
The union Ministry of Health confirmed that the Omicron variant has been detected for the first time in India, in two cases from Karnataka, through genomic surveillance.
In Bengaluru, Gaurav Gupta, commissioner of BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike), the city’s municipal corporation, said that both the persons who have been detected with the new variant were fully vaccinated. They are clinically stable and have no complications.
It is difficult to ascertain whether the symptoms associated with the Omicron variant are different, or more severe, or at par with other variants, since we don’t enough yet.
It is too soon to verify the statement about current vaccines and treatment plans being ineffective against the new variant.
The Omicron variant may be highly transmissible and perhaps, could even make vaccinated people its hosts. However, the degree of complications and severity is mild, as has been observed.
Former, union health minister Harsh Vardhan said that out of the three vaccines deployed in India so far (Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik), the indigenously developed Covaxin is more likely to work against mutated Coronavirus strains. But, experts have questioned this claim.
The Indian government is closely eyeing reports on Omicron across the world. The central government issued revised guidelines for international travelers arriving from Europe, the UK, and 11 other “at risk” countries. The guidelines also mandate testing for each international traveler upon their arrival.
I held a meeting with the officials today. We hope #Omicron doesn't come to India, but we need to be prepared as responsible governments…As far as the beds are concerned, we have prepared 30,000 oxygen beds and around 10,000 of these are ICU beds: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal pic.twitter.com/UQ38ZWaSQR
— ANI (@ANI) November 30, 2021
Moreover, the WHO urged countries to undertake health measures by understanding the potential impact of the new variant of Covid-19 such as: severity, diagnostics, and effectiveness in public health measures.