Omicron Variant and Our Concern

Covid-19 pandemic across the globe has taken a new turn on the discovery of a new variant, named Omicron. While there are many other variants of Covid-19, both active and inactive, the Omicron variant has taken the world media by storm. Let us find out in this article what exactly are the concerns in most people’s minds regarding this Omicron strain.

It is known that viruses not only transmit but also change their mutations in each transmission. Usually, these changes are too minute to be detected. However, large variations do occur, and in some cases may lead to a stronger virus with higher transmissibility, greater resistance to vaccines, or even more deadly. Covid-19 coronavirus also underwent several changes since its first detection in Wuhan. At first, the variants were popularly nicknamed from the country of origin. As they caused some kind of racism against a particular country or a particular race, the nomenclature shifted to Greek letters, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.

WHO classified these variants into two categories – Variants of Interest and Variants of Concern. Variants of Interest are those variants that may in the future cause community transmissions or has the potential to become out of control. Variants of concern are those which have greater transmissibility, can cause severe symptoms, are more fatal, or develop resistance to vaccination. To date, only five of these variants – alpha, beta, gamma, delta and the newly added Omicron have been recognised as Variants of Concern. Variants of Interest at present are only two variations, lambda and mu.

Transmissibility of Omicron is considered much greater than delta, one of the most fatal and widely circulated variants of Covid-19 discovered to date. However, it is yet to be proved as data remains insufficient on the spread of this virus. Neither it has been proved that it is more harmful as it is still under research level. However, preliminary research suggests that it may be much less dangerous than the delta variant despite having greater transmissibility. Omicron has also not gone out of control in most countries, including Botswana and South Africa, the countries of origin of this variant.

South Africa did well to report globally that a new variant of Covid-19 has been detected within its borders. South Africa also did well to make sure awareness and research studies can spread to other nations to initiate effective measures to contain this strain. However, most countries around the world, except for African and some South American ones, are looking at South Africa with suspicion. Most countries have responded with travel bans to South Africa and other African countries, shutting down flights, ships, and different modes of transportation and communication.

This may set an example to other countries to remain silent on new variations, only to save their economy. Also, many countries around the world have significant Covid-19 caseload and high fatality rates from delta variants, who do not have even mandatory Covid-19 protocols such as mandatorily wearing a mask in public. Hence, it is not the right time to panic and stand against South Africa, but work all together to end the pandemic once and for all.

Written by – Himadri Paul

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