Omicron: Everything about new coronavirus variant, 'most concerning' since delta
A new variant of the coronavirus that causes the deadly Covid-19 infection is now wreaking havoc across the world, concerning health experts. Some have already dubbed omicron as the "most concerning" since the delta variant, which fuelled relentless waves of infection on every continent some months ago.
The B.1.1.529 variant is considered dangerous due to its increased transmissibility.
Countries raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already categorised omicron as variant of concern. The global health body suggested omicron could pose greater risks than delta.
Here is everything you need to know about the new omicron variant of coronavirus:
Where did omicron originate?
The variant is believed to have originated in southern part of Africa (officially declared by WHO on November 24) and brought on a fresh surge of infections. The WHO said that the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.
Omicron has now been seen in travellers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel as well as in southern Africa.
What makes it dangerous?
Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, according to the WHO. That means people who contracted Covid-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.
"We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment," British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers on Friday.
What is known about the variant?
The researchers spotted the B.1.1.529 in a sample taken from Botswana in Africa. They were surprised to find that it contained more than 30 changes (mutations) to the spike protein.
However, the scientists are still studying the variant and its effects further to identify if it causes more severe disease. As with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, the doctors in South Africa said.
Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government's top infectious disease expert, said though the omicron variant is thought to be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, "we don't know that for sure right now".
The global panic
The 27-nation European Union suspended air travel from southern Africa. The United States and Canada too have instituted travel ban on those coming from South Africa.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday.
US Presient Joe Biden said the new variant “should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations".
A 911 dispatcher has been placed on leave and may lose her job after allegedly hanging up on an supermarket employee hiding during this weekend's shooting rampage in Buffalo, New York. “Termination will be sought” for the dispatcher at a disciplinary hearing later this month, said spokesperson for the executive of Erie County, Peter Anderson, in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Anderson said it's unclear who hung up on whom.
A team of Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigations Department have questioned four Members of Parliament (MPs), including two former ministers, over last week's violence against protesters at two protest sites in Colombo, the country's largest city, local media has reported. According to reports, a CID team arrived at the Parliament Complex on Wednesday to interrogate--with the Speaker's permission--and record the statements of Rohitha Abeygunawardena and CB Ratnayake, both former ministers.
Though this is the first confirmed case in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing for the possibility of more monkeypox cases. Here are 10 things to know about monkeypox and the 1st case in the United States in 2022 1. The Massachusetts man travelled to Canada at the end of April to meet friends and returned in early May. This is the first case of monkeypox this year.
North Korea is ramping up the production of drugs and medical supplies to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc. According to the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, North Korea is also increasing the production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain. In the capital city of Pyongyang and nearby regions, factories are churning out more injections, medicines and thermometers and other medical supplies.
Veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, who was nominated by US President Joe Biden to be the country's next ambassador to war-hit Ukraine, was on Wednesday (local time) given a unanimous approval by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for appointment to the post, which means that she just a step away from being Washington's new representative in the east European nation. She was nominated by Biden on April 25.