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Omicron Variant of the Corona Virus

Omicron Variant of the Corona Virus

Detected in November in Botswana and South Africa, the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus raises international concern. 

Why?

  • Higher Transmissibility: Detection of the virus has been confirmed in 57 countries, as per the World Health Organization (WHO). 
  • Viral structure: Omicron has a structural genome that exhibits multiple mutations at the protein spike of the virus. This makes it more communicable. COVID-19 cases more than doubled in one week in South Africa where the omicron variant dominates, as reported by CNN. Widespread concern is that these identified mutations on the viral shell also may allow the virus to be undetected by antibodies in vaccinated people. 

What is being done?

  • Countries are responding with travel restrictions. 
    • Closed borders: Japan, Israel and Morocco have closed their borders to all foreign travelers. 
    • Banning travel from South African countries:  39 countries have imposed travel restrictions from South African nations and new quarantining requirements before/after travel internationally. 
  • In the US, Biden has vowed to confront this with ‘science and speed’, including: 
    • Travel:  similar to other countries - travel restrictions from South Africa, quarantining, mask-mandates on modes of mass transit
    • Vaccinations: increasing campaigns of public vaccination for the unimmuized (national rate is 60% as per the Washington Post with 200 million people fully vaccinated) and booster shots for the vaccinated
    • Testing:  increasing availability and affordability of at-home rapid COVID testing with insurance reimbursement and free kits at clinics for the uninsured by January 2022
    • Legislation to encourage worker vaccination or mandatory frequent testing by employers
    • Worldwide vaccinations: The Biden administration in September vowed to donate 500 million more vaccines to low- and lower-middle income countries. As noted by CNN, ‘These vaccines bring the United States total to over 1.1 billion vaccines donated to other countries.’

What can you do, notes epidemiologist, Katelyn Jetelina?

  • Ventilate spaces. 
  • Use masks. 
  • Test if you have symptoms. Isolate if positive. 
  • Get vaccinated. Get boosted.

At Cold FAid, we wish you a healthy and happy holiday season with your loved ones!

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