Despite widespread travel bans and restrictions, the Omicron Covid-19 variant is rearing its head in an increased number of countries.
Omicron was first reported from South Africa on 24 November, with the first known confirmed infection from a specimen collected on 9 November.
After news first broke of the new variant earlier this week, it was detected in Botswana and Hong Kong.
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Due to the number of mutations, some of which the World Health Organization said were “concerning”, the variant has been classified as a “variant of concern”.
Here is a list of the countries known to have detected at least one case of the B.1.1.529 variant:
- South Africa,
- Hong Kong,
- Czech republic,
- The UK,
- Germany, and
The pace at which the new daily Covid cases are increasing in South Africa has left scientists suspecting it may be driven by the transmissibility of the new variant.
Although not all are Omicron cases, the daily Covid positivity rate rose this week from 3.6 percent on Wednesday, 6.5 percent on Thursday, 9.1 percent on Friday and 9.2 percent on Saturday, according to official data.
It has the “most mutations we have seen to date”, Professor Mosa Moshabela, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal told AFP.
He said “some of these mutations we have seen before like in Delta and Beta,” but others they have not, and “we don’t know what the combination of those mutations will translate into.”
Leading virologist Tulio de Oliveira said there were around 50 mutations overall, including 30 on the spike protein, the focus of most vaccines as it is what enables the virus to enter cells.
It is unclear though what the impact will be on vaccines.
As for the severity of the variant, scientists say it has only come to light this week, giving little time for thorough analysis.
Compiled by Nica Richards. Additional reporting by AFP.