What we know about the new COVID Omicron strain from southern Africa? It was first discovered on Tuesday, November 23, 2021. The Omicron strain has also been linked with Gauteng province in South Africa.


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In an article published by The Guardian, scientists answer a number of key questions about the COVID Omicron strain in South Africa.

1. When was the new COVID Omicron Strain first detected?

The Omicron strain was first discovered on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, and is believed upsetting because of the huge number of mutations, which can make it resistant to the immunity given by the vaccine are passing the disease.

The Omicron strain has also been linked to an increase in the number of cases in the last two weeks in Gauteng province in South Africa. It is town area that includes Pretoria and Johannesburg. 

These 2 points rapidly flashed on the radar of international monitoring.

In the UK, the chief health consultant at the Health and Safety Agency described it as "the most worrying strain I've ever seen".

2. COIVID Omicron strain Where it comes from?

Even though the stem was originally related to Gauteng, it does not necessarily mean that it came from there. The oldest categorized samples show that the strain was in Botswana on November 11, 2021.

The researchers say that this unusual constellation of mutations suggests that it probably occurred against the background of a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, such as an untreated HIV-AIDS patient.

3. Why are scientists worried?

The COIVID Omicron strain has more than 30 mutations on the spike protein - the key used by the virus to invade the cells of our body. A double number of mutations compared to the Delta variant.

Such a dramatic change has raised concerns that disease or vaccination antibodies may no longer be sufficiently suitable for the new version of the coronavirus.

Strictly based on knowledge of the list of mutations, scientists anticipate that the virus will be more likely to infect - or re-infect - people who have immunity to previous strains.

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4. Is the COVID Omicron strain easier to transmit?

Answer to this question is still not clear, but the position right now and, the picture that is foreshadowing is quite disturbing. In South Africa, the number of cases rose from 273 cases on November 16 to more than 1,200 earlier this week. More than 80% of them came from Gauteng province and the preliminary analysis suggests that the strain quickly became the dominant one in this area.

The R value, which practically indicates how fast an epidemic is growing, is estimated at 1.47 for South Africa, but in Gauteng it reaches 1.93.

There is also the probability that this difference may be explained by an over-spreading event, but the data have started enough alarms for extra safety measures to be taken.

5. Will existing vaccines work against it?

Scientists are concerned about the number of mutations and the fact that some of these mutations have already been associated with the virus's ability to escape existing immune protection. These are theoretical predictions, however. Needle Studies are being conducted rapidly to test how effectively antibodies can neutralize the new variant of the virus. Practical data on reinfection rates may also provide clearer indications of changes in immunity.

Scientists do not expect the strain to be completely unrecognizable to existing antibodies - but the vaccines we have today may offer less protection against it.

A crucial goal remains to increase vaccination rates, including doses 3 for those at risk.

6. Will the COVID Omicron strain cause more severe cases of COVID?

There is no information yet that the COVID Omicron strain will lead to changes in symptoms or the severity of COVID - something that will be closely monitored by researchers in South Africa. Since there is a gap between the infection and the more serious disease, it will take a few weeks for us to have clearer data on this issue.

7. Can vaccines be adapted for the COVID Omicron strain and how long would it take?

Yes, the teams of researchers who created the vaccines are most likely already working on updating the vaccines with the new spike protein to prepare for the possibility that a new version of the serum will be needed.

A lot of research work was done for such preparation and updating when the Beta and Delta variants emerged – however in those cases, the vaccines performed well enough.

However, it could take another six months for up-to-date vaccines - if necessary - to be widely available.

8. How likely is it that the COVID Omicron strain will spread in the world?

So far, most confirmed cases have been in South Africa - with some in Botswana and Hong Kong. Another case was detected in Israel on Thursday night - a person who had just returned from Malawi - and two other cases are suspected.

However, given that there is already Community transmission in southern Africa, if there is an advantage of transmissibility of the COVID Omicron strain, it means that it has most likely already spread undetected in other countries. The up-to-date news also links her to Europe.

Previous experience shows that travel restrictions tend to buy time, but with the exception of the Covid zero approaches, these measures are unlikely to completely stop the spread of a new COIVID Omicron strain.