The United Kingdom has reported two new cases of a potentially contagious variant of coronavirus B.1.1.529, or OMICRON. World governments are trying to strengthen their defenses by minimizing travel from countries in South Africa, but Covid-19 is one step ahead.
Sajid Javid, the British Minister for Health, has officially confirmed that two British citizens living in Nottingham and Chelmsford have the Omicron variant. According to him, both cases are related to the previous trips of these people to the southern part of the African continent.
Both cases are currently in ordered home quarantine. The incident is not finished yet since co-travelers may have been exposed and gotten infected, therefore the identification is in the progress. Many countries, among others the European Union, Canada, Australia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Iran and the United States, have announced flight restrictions to African countries as a response to a new threat of the possibility of a new OMICRON strain spreading.
Large pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax, are optimistic and say they can improve their vaccines to cope with the new option, even if it takes some time. Besides the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Botswana, Belgium, Israel, and even Germany have confirmed and reported positive cases or have a strong suspicion.
The Dutch authorities are equally concerned that more than 60 people have recently arrived from South Africa, shortly after the government banned flights in this direction. Tulio de Oliveira, head of the South African Epidemic Response Center, says the variant has found many more mutations than expected – about 50 variants have already been explored.
Another unfortunate feature of the Omicron strain is that it spreads very quickly, but on the positive side, according to scientists this type of mutation could cause milder disease than previously known coronavirus variants. The newly introduced travel security measures that we can see around the world, including the United States, have another negative impact on the international economy.
On the advice of health officials, US President Joe Biden canceled transport links to Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Lesotho. Based on the statements of the professional public, we have to focus on the unprecedented number of mutations in the protein envelope of the new coronavirus variant.
It is too early to discuss the effectiveness of the vaccine when interacting with these mutation doctors and researchers say. Covid-19 vaccination is still considered the best cure for the virus. In any case, more research is needed to understand the clinical severity of the new strain compared to previous variants. It is also unclear exactly where OMICRON comes from, although it was first discovered in South Africa, it may come from elsewhere.