OMICRON

  • The World Health Organization has declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19, to be a variant of concern.
  • The virus was first detected in Southern Africa and it is renamed Omicron.

Important points:

  • Omicron is placed in the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
  • This variant has a large number of mutations. Some of them are cause for serious concern because they may allow the new variant to evade immunity obtained from a past infection or via a vaccine.
  • However, there are no reliable estimates of just how much more transmissible the Omicron variant is compared to previous strains of the virus
  • Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in people coming from Malawi, Botswana, Belgium and Hong Kong.
  • The WHO has decided to name the variants after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to avoid the countries that first detected them being stigmatised.
  • WHO selected the name Omicron, instead of Nu or Xi, the two letters between Mu and Omicron. This is because:
  • Xi happens to be a popular surname in China (avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups).
  • Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’.

Situation In India:

  • Seroprevalence studies indicate that a large proportion of the population has already been exposed to the virus providing some level of protection to subsequent infections.
  • Further, the immunisation campaign has gained momentum.
  • Approximately 44% of Indian adults have been fully vaccinated and 82% have received at least one dose.
  • Scientists believe that prior infection followed by one or two doses of vaccination may have a larger protective effect than two doses of the vaccination alone.

Way Forward

India should take a risk-based and scientific approach when considering travel curbs in light of the variant.

SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT

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