Omicron: What It Means For India & The World
The Free Press Journal|December 01, 2021
Omicron (B.1.1.529), a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, has been designated as a variant of concern (VOC) by the World Health Organisation.
Dr Chandrakant Lahariya

Overall, it is the fifth VOC and the first since the Delta (B.1.617) variant. Omicron was first detected from samples collected in South Africa (November 9) and Botswana (November 11). In the days which followed, South Africa witnessed a steep rise in new Covid cases alongside the detection of the new variant. Cases of Omicron have since been reported from other countries, including Israel, Hong Kong, the UK, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany and Australia, amongst others. No confirmed case of Omicron has been reported from India, yet.

The variant is a form of the virus, slightly different from the original and has different characteristics. The variants are developed as in the replication of any virus, some changes in the genetic sequence may happen, which are termed as 'mutations'. Most mutations remain insignificant; however, a few may result in change in properties. Once that happens, it becomes a new variant of the virus. In SARSCoV2, a variant is considered ‘of concern' if associated with one or more of the following (a) increased transmissibility; (b) increase in ability to cause serious disease or change in clinical presentation and (c) ability to escape/bypass (natural or vaccine) induced immunity or decrease in the effectiveness of available diagnostics and therapeutics.

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