World on Alert: WHO Designated South African New COVID Strain (Omicron/B.1.1.529) as a Variant of Concern
South African researchers are trying to track a worrisome rise in a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing COVID-19. This subspecies contains numerous mutations found in other subspecies, including Delta, and appears to be spreading rapidly in South Africa. The top priority is to track variants more closely when they are distributed. It is first confirmed in Botswana and has appeared to travellers arriving from South Africa to Hong Kong. Scientists are also trying to understand the characteristics of mutants, such as whether they can avoid the immune response caused by the vaccine and whether they cause more severe illness than other mutants. On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the strain, known as B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern and named it Omicron. Omicron joins Delta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma on the current WHO list of variants of concern.