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Coronavirus: New Variant Alert (SARS-CoV-2)

Coronavirus new variant B.1.1.529 (also known as Omicron) is rapidly spreading in South Africa. The very first confirmed infection from a specimen of this variant(B.1.1.529) was collected on 9th November 2021.

Other than South Africa this variant has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
Also only 24% of South Africans are fully vaccinated. And the situation is even worse in other parts of Africa.

Why it is a “Matter of Concern” ?

World Health Organisation has classified this new variant (Omicron) as “variant of concern” because some expert believes that it is up to 500% more contagious than Delta variant, which was found in October last year.

https://www.who.int/news/item/26-11-2021-classification-of-omicron-(b.1.1.529)-sars-cov-2-variant-of-concern

Many countries like US and Canada are joining EU in restricting flights from Southern Africa by imposing temporary travel ban.
On the other hand “Africa CDC strongly discourages the imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported this variant. Imposing bans on travelers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome.”

Are vaccines effective against this variant of coronavirus?

This Omicron, is a new variant of the same virus SARS-CoV-2 which means unvaccinated people are at higher risk than vaccinated ones.
You can see it yourself if you compare the situation of UK vs Russia in the last 3 months.

Source: BusinessToday

Do we need Booster Shot?

WHO chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan in her recent interview said that “booster dose can be given to vulnerable like elderly people who have weaker immune system”.
But this will only work when majority of the people are vaccinated in each and every country otherwise booster shots are useless, cause today its South Africa but tomorrow it will be some other country. So we should focus more on vaccine equity, rather than making booster shots.

What should we do?

As of now, no one knows how fatal or dangerous this variant could be or what are the long-term effects of this disease.
There are a number of studies underway, but it will take some time as a doctors need more data.
But meanwhile what we can do is to follow the guidelines like maintain social distancing, wear face mask in public and avoid large gatherings. Also if vaccines are available near you and you are still unvaccinated then please talk to your doctor and get your vaccine now.

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