WHO: Omicron, variant “of concern”

By Ma Ziyi

KUALA LUMPUR, 30 November 2021: The recently discovered COVID-19’s variant Omicron was declared “of concern” by World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday (26 November).

Early evidence suggests Omicron has a higher re-infection risk.

On 24 November, South Africa reported a new Omicron variant to WHO for the first time. “The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection came from specimen collected on 9 November,” it said.

The director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, Prof. Tulio de Oliveira said there was an “unusual constellation of mutations” and that it was “very different” to other variants such as Alpha, Beta which have circulated.

“There were a total of 50 mutations and more than 30 on the spike protein, which is the target of most vaccines and the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway into our body’s cells,” Prof de Oliveira said in a media briefing.

The most concerning is that Omicron is radically different from the virus originally emerged in Wuhan, China, which means that the vaccine used to resist the original strain may not be effective against it.

So far, almost all countries in Africa have been attacked by Omicron. Some other countries have also reported cases, including Israel, Hong Kong, Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the Netherlands.

“For now, the Quartet Ministerial Meeting decided to temporarily put a pause on our efforts in transitioning to the endemic stage until we know more about the Omicron variant,” said Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein during a press conference in Parliament on Tuesday (30 November).

Hishammuddin also said that Putrajaya was monitoring countries where Omicron has proliferated, adding that the current situation was still unstable.

Nevertheless, he said that there will be no changes in the country’s international tourism programme in Langkawi and matters of domestic travel were also addressed together with Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Wee Ka Siong and representatives from Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

Countries around the world are racing to introduce travel bans and restrictions on seven African countries – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe – in an effort to curb the spread of the variant.

“I believe that these African countries understand that it isn’t about diplomacy or geopolitics, but health. We don’t want to jeopardise our progress since one and a half years ago with irresponsible decisions,” Hishammuddin said. ***

Source: BBC News, The Star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *