Geneva/New Delhi | Jagran World Desk: The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 to be a variant of concern, renaming it Omicron. "Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology... the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, named Omicron," the World Health Organisation said in a statement.

"The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021," WHO statement added.

Earlier on Friday, WHO had said that the B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19 has a 'large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study'. "Researchers are working to understand more," WHO spokersperson Christian Lindmeier had said.

How India is reacting to Omicorn spread?

The Union Health Ministry on Thursday directed all states and Union Territories to rigorously screen and test travellers coming from or  through three countries in which the new more dangerous variant of COVID-19 had been confirmed. These countries are South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong. 

On Friday, when India announced that it will resume regular international flight operations for the first time in nearly two years since the pandemic began, a total of 14 countries were excluded, many in the wake of Omicorn spread in the given countries.

Do current tests detect Omicorn variant?

According to WHO, current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant, meaning the testing apparatus deployed worldwide will remain equipped to detect the Omicorn variant. That is, the variant, as fear early on, is not undetectable.

How can countries fight Omicorn variant?

The World Health Organisation has asked the countries all over world to do the following to combat the spread or suspected spread of COVID-19:

1. Enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

2. Submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID, so that all nations are able to keep up with the efforts to combat the new strain of virus.

3. Report initial cases/clusters associated with Variant of Concern infection to WHO.

4. The countries where the capacity exists must make efforts to understand the potential impacts of the Variant of Concern on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization or other relevant characteristics.

Posted By: Mukul Sharma