The World Health Organization identified another COVID-19 variant of concern called B.1.1.529, known as Omicron, proven by the evidence presented by the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution.
The variant was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021 and caused a surge in new cases worldwide, quicker than any of the previously known coronavirus. While there is more to understand about the variant, it is highly transmissible and less susceptible to COVID-19 vaccines than other variants. Also, the surge in cases leads some hospital systems near breaking point.
Scientists recognized the variant thanks to its distinctive combination of more than 50 mutations. Omicron is likely to spread two or three times faster compared to previous variants. The rapid spread is backed by the earliest evidence of the swift spread from South Africa and spread in other countries globally.
While the symptoms of this variant might be less severe than previous ones, people are still advised to prioritise health and follow safety protocols. Even fully jabbed individuals can still be infected, making everyone at risk of acquiring the virus.
Fortunately, several studies indicate that fully vaccinated individuals supplemented by a booster shot increase protection against infection with Omicron. To reduce the burden on laboratories and hospitals, many governments overhaul their COVID-19 testing policies amid the soaring infection rates.
In the UK, people who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid antigen test will not need to confirm their results with a pcr test, especially if they are not experiencing or showing any symptoms. According to John Edmunds, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a follow-up test would only waste time and cost significant money. Also, it uses up laboratory resources that are better used elsewhere.
Click this infographic from Harley Medic international to learn more about the Omicron variant.