What we do and don’t know about the Omicron Covid-19 variant

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Omicron, the new variant of COVID-19, has gripped the entrance pages ever since the World Well being Group labeled it a variant of concern final Friday, however what does Omicron imply for journey, the upcoming holidays, and the pandemic as a complete? Right here’s what it’s good to know:

  • What is Omicron? Omicron is the new variant of Covid-19. It was first detected and recognized in South Africa and given the designation B.1.1.529. The WHO classified Omicron as a variant of concern on November 26, 2021.
  • What is a variant of concern? All viruses continually mutate, and Covid-19 is not any totally different. Most of those mutations are innocent, however some may result in the virus turning into extra transmissible, extra lethal, or each. WHO classifies some new variants as “variants of curiosity” (VOI) or “variants of concern” (VOC). VOI’s are variants that will result in elevated transmission, illness, or dying, so they’re monitored intently. A VOC is a variant that has been demonstrated to trigger elevated transmission, illness, or dying. WHO says the choice to call Omicron as a VOC “was primarily based on the proof introduced to the TAG-VE [WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution] that Omicron has a number of mutations that will have an effect on the way it behaves, for instance, on how simply it spreads or the severity of sickness it causes.”
  • What makes Omicron totally different? The Omicron variant has over 30 mutations in a key spike protein, reports CNN. The adjustments to this key spike protein might influence how effectively it binds with human cells, which may imply it spreads extra simply than Delta or is ready to higher evade vaccines.
  • Is Omicron extra transmissible? There’s some early proof that it could be, however elevated transmissibility has not been confirmed but.
  • Does Omicron result in extra extreme illness or is it deadlier? That’s one thing scientists don’t have the reply to but.
  • The place has Omicron unfold to? At the time of this writing, Bloomberg says Omicron has unfold to the following international locations: South Africa, Botswana, Germany, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Isreal, Italy, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Canada, Switzerland, France, and Portugal. Nevertheless, Omicron is sort of actually in different international locations already.
  • Is Omicron in the United States? Omicron has not been detected in the United States but, however there’s a excessive chance the variant has already been launched in the nation. We might hear at any time that Omicron has been detected in the U.S.
  • How will Omicron have an effect on journey? It’s already affecting journey. Many international locations have banned vacationers from South Africa and different southern African nations, reports Reuters. Israel has also effectively shut its borders once more, and Japan has closed its borders to overseas vacationers, too.
  • How will Omicron influence the upcoming holidays? That’s unknown at this level. If Omicron is discovered to be as dangerous as some worry, some international locations might implement lockdowns or extra journey restrictions over the holidays.
  • How will Omicron influence the general pandemic? That, too, is unknown at this level.
  • Are the present vaccines efficient towards Omicron? Once more, that’s not one thing scientists can reply at this level. Nevertheless, Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned our present vaccines are prone to provide “a level of safety towards extreme circumstances of COVID” (via Reuters).
  • What are the signs of Omicron? Once more, no official signs are identified. Nevertheless, as CNBC reports, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who first alerted the world to Omicron, says the signs she’s seen in sufferers are “uncommon” in comparison with Delta and are “extraordinarily delicate.” Coetzee famous stories of physique aches, complications, tiredness, and scratchy throats–however no stories of lack of odor or style or bouts of coughing, which are sometimes signs of Delta.
  • When will we have definitive solutions about Omicron? Most scientists and governments say will probably be a number of extra weeks earlier than we have extra certainty over the traits of Omicron and what it means for the pandemic as a complete. As Reuters reports, on Sunday Dr. Anthony Fauci informed President Biden definitive solutions will take two extra weeks.
  • How can I keep protected from Omicron? For now, the World Well being Group says folks ought to proceed utilizing the finest practices they’ve for delta and different variants: social distance, put on masks, get vaccinated.