While the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spread to 38 countries in less than two weeks, experts say the strain first identified in South Africa has already been circulating undetected for some time.
According to virologists and epidemiologists, the variant was in circulation in several countries before South African health authorities alerted the world to its presence. The inference is based on the fact that many cases of the Omicron variant that are surfacing in different parts of the world have no travel connection to the southern African region where the virus was first reported. This, experts say, suggests community transmission of the virus has already started.
For example, the nine people who initially tested positive for the variant in Scotland had all attended a private event. However, none of the participants have visited southern Africa in the recent past. Likewise, in Germany, a man who was found infected with Omicron had not been out of the country for a long time, nor had his contacts.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) also said that the origin of this variant was unknown and that it was wrong to impose restrictive measures on countries in southern Africa. “The only thing we’re sure of when a country detects a virus is that that country’s surveillance system is good. This is what happened in southern Africa. So that discourages the travel ban even more because… it’s like a measure against a good surveillance system, ”Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, regional director of emergencies in the WHO office for the United Nations, told CNBC. Africa.
At a press briefing on Friday, WHO officials said it was too early to confirm whether or not existing COVID-19 vaccines would combat the new variant. However, people were advised to remain calm and follow all protocols.
(Edited by : Thomas abraham)