A report: Omicron variant: what to know about the new COVID-19 strain
South African scientists this week identified a new version of the coronavirus which they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It is not known exactly where the new variant actually appeared, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has now been seen in travelers in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
It appears to have a high number of mutations – around 30 – in the coronavirus spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to humans.
Sharon Peacock, who has led the genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge, said data so far suggests the new variant has mutations “compatible with improved transmissibility,” but said that “the significance of most mutations is still not known. “
Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, described omicron as “the most heavily mutated version of the virus we’ve seen,” including potentially worrying changes never seen before in the same virus.
On November 26, President Joe Biden commented on his decision to implement travel restrictions to try to prevent the new variant from reaching the United States.
A report: US, Canada, EU and Japan restrict travel to South Africa on Omicron variant
“We don’t know much about the variant except that it is of great concern. It seems to be spreading quickly, ”President Biden said. “I spent about half an hour this morning with my COVID team, led by Dr Fauci, so that’s the decision we made. “
Travel restrictions will take effect on Monday, November 29.
Arizona health expert speaks out
On November 26, Will Humble of the Arizona Public Health Association spoke about travel restrictions.
“Quite frankly, these travel restrictions aren’t a long-term fix, or even a very good mid-term fix,” Humble said. “In my opinion, these are just a knee-jerk reaction. “
The variant is so new that there isn’t much research available other than that it is highly transmissible and can potentially bypass the immunity people have built up so far.
“The big thing we haven’t done is a change in the policy, which would force both Moderna and Pfizer to share their intellectual property, so other countries can manufacture their vaccines,” Humble said.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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