What is the New Variant of COVID-19? Here’s What We Know So Far

New reports indicate that a new variant of the coronavirus has been identified by scientists in South Africa.  Identified on November 24, the new variant, omicron (B.1.1.529),  becomes the fifth variant identified by the World Health Organization(WHO) since the pandemic began a year ago. The first known confirmed variant of Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 2021. 

Although scientists are working to know more about this new variant, this article provides you with some initial facts about Omicron.

Where was Omicron identified?

The new variant was first identified by South African scientists in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng.  It has been linked to a very rapid rise in cases in the province in the past weeks by South Africa’s health ministry. For now, scientists are unclear where the variant first emerged.  It is suspected to have come from multiple countries which are currently unknown.

Has Omicron spread to other countries?

Yes. Omicron has been detected in travellers to Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.

What are the characteristics of the new variant?

Initial observation by the WHO indicates that the Omicron variant “has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.” It also further suggests that there is an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other known variants. 

How dangerous is this new  variant?

Preliminary evidence does not indicate whether this new variant causes severe sickness in people. However, the evidence indicates that omicron is genetically distinct from previous variants including the beta and delta variants.

Note: This report will be updated as we get more information on this new variant 

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