Cyprus reportedly discovers a Covid variant that mixes omicron and delta

CSL staff will be working in the laboratory in Melbourne, Australia on November 8, 2020, where they will begin manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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A researcher in Cyprus has discovered a strain of the coronavirus that combines the Delta and Omicron variants. Bloomberg News reported on Saturday.

Leondios Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus, named the strain “Deltacron” because of its omicron-like genetic signatures within the Delta genomes, Bloomberg said.

So far, Kostrikis and his team have found 25 cases of the virus, according to the report. It’s too early to say if there are any more cases of the stress or what impact it might have.

“We will see in the future whether this strain is pathological or more contagious or whether it will prevail against the two dominant strains Delta and Omicron,” said Kostrikis in an interview with Sigma TV on Friday. He believes Omicron will overtake Deltacron too, he added.

The researchers sent their results this week to GISAID, an international database that, according to Bloomberg, tracks viruses.

The Deltacron variant is coming as Omicron continues its rapid spread around the world, leading to a surge in Covid-19 cases. According to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University on Friday, the US reports a seven-day average of more than 600,000 new cases daily. That’s a 72% increase from the previous week and a pandemic record.

Read the full Bloomberg News story here.

Omicron variant prone to gas inflation, as Individuals hold purchasing, economist says

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According to Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, the spread of the highly contagious variant of Omicron is likely to fuel inflation as Americans keep shopping instead of spending more outside the home.

However, the advisor to the major retailer said in a press release on Wednesday that he was not up to date with the latest wave of Covid Cases that trigger an economic slowdown or company shutdowns.

“Omicron’s impact on consumer demand is little known, but people who stay at home because of the option are more likely to spend their money on retail goods than on services such as dining out or personal entertainment,” he said in the press release. “That would put inflation under further pressure as supply chains around the world are already overloaded.”

He said that “each subsequent variation has slowed the economy, but the rate of slowdown has been less.” And he added that consumers may have more confidence from being fully vaccinated or hearing of milder cases of the variant.

Covid cases in the US hit a pandemic record of more than 1 million new infections on Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data, the country now reports a seven-day average of more than 480,000 new infections, almost double the previous week.

The surge in coronavirus cases has prompted retailers and restaurants, including Starbucks, Apple, Nike and gap-Own Athleta to close stores or shorten opening times as they cope with scarce staff or intensify disinfection. Walmart in the interim nearly 60 US stores closed in coronavirus hotspots last month to disinfect them. Macys said on Tuesday that it is so Reduction of shop opening times for the rest of the month.

However, many of these stores have made it easier for customers to shop another way – from home delivery to roadside collection.

The National Retail Federation also doesn’t expect the pandemic to affect Christmas sales. It predicted sales in November and December Increase between 8.5% and 10.5% compared to last year and achieve record sales of $ 843.4 billion to $ 859 billion.

Kleinhenz later raised that forecast, saying in early December that Vacation sales could increase as much as 11.5% compared to the same period last year.

The trade group expects to announce official holiday sales next week after the Census Bureau released December retail sales data.

The UK braces for 1 million omicron instances as Covid variant spreads

A fan wearing a face mask looks on during the Sky Bet Championship game between Nottingham Forest and Fulham at the City Ground on October 24, 2021 in Nottingham, England.

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LONDON – The surge in Omicron-Covid cases in the UK is so steep that the country has been warned to prepare for a million cases by the end of the month.

The UK health authority said Wednesday that omicron has a significant growth advantage over the Delta variant, “which means it is likely to outperform Delta in the UK and become the dominant variant”.

This assessment is based on an analysis of British data shows increased household transmission risk, increased secondary attack rates (like the likelihood of each case infecting a different person) and increased growth rates compared to Delta, the UKHSA said.

“If the growth rate and doubling time continue as we have seen in the past 2 weeks, we assume that in the next 2 to 4 weeks at least 50% of the coronavirus cases will be caused by the Omicron variant. ” it said in a statement.

Currently, the UK has registered 568 confirmed cases of the variant, however British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told British lawmakers on Wednesday evening that “we know that the real number of infections will be significantly higher.”

“The UK Health Authority estimates that the [current] The number of infections will be about 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and that brings the number of infections closer to 10,000, ”he said.

“At the currently observed doubling rate of two and a half to three days by the end of this month, infections could exceed a million,” warned Javid, saying the UK is facing the “twin threats from both Omicron and Delta variant” that are still occurring makes up the majority of cases worldwide.

The Omicron variant was first spotted in South Africa in early November and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24th. Two days later, the WHO described it as a “questionable variant” and found that it had mutations that were associated with increased transferability.

Since then, the variant has been identified in 57 countries around the world, according to the latest WHO record, and there are increasing cases of community transmission unrelated to travel.

Experts and vaccine manufacturers have made an effort to assess the risk profile of the variant. In particular, they are focusing on how quickly it spreads, whether it causes more serious illness and could lead to an increase in hospital admissions and deaths, and whether it undermines Covid vaccines.

Preliminary data, anecdotal evidence, and a small number of early studies suggest that the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant, but it causes milder illness and could undermine the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines currently in use.

However, the WHO technical director on Covid-19 stressed on Wednesday that it is “too early to conclude” that the omicron symptoms are weaker. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that omicron could change the course of the pandemic.

A number of countries responded to news about the variant with flight bans or quarantines for visitors from countries in southern Africa where the Omicron variant was first detected, as many are already struggling with an increase in delta cases in winter.

The UK went further on Wednesday, advising people who could work from home and introducing stricter measures on wearing masks and using Covid passports.

“Tremendously worrying” distribution

There has been several positive and negative news about the Omicron variant this week, however The global financial markets have recovered in the last few days as traders are betting that the economic impact of the omicron Covid variant will not be as severe as initially feared.

Pfizers CEO Albert Bourla said on Wednesday that People could need a fourth Covid-19 vaccination earlier than expected, while many countries are still introducing third booster vaccinations. Others are still trying to get their population vaccinated with an initial shot, which will help reduce serious infections, hospital stays, and deaths.

Bourla’s comments came after preliminary research showed that the Omicron variant can undermine protective antibodies created by the vaccine made by the company that developed it BioNTech.

The vaccine manufacturers published results of a first laboratory study on Wednesday showed that a third dose of vaccine was effective in combating the Omicron variant, while the effectiveness of the first two-dose series of vaccinations was significantly reduced.

“When we see real data, [we] will determine if and for how long the omicron is well covered by the third dose, “Bourla told CNBC.” And the second point, I think we’re going to need a fourth dose, “he added.

Experts urged caution and said that there are still unknowns about the variant.

Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC on Thursday that “the Omicron data is hugely worrying,” pointing to the 2.5-day doubling of cases in the UK.

Altmann emphasized, however, that the immunology landscape with Omicron is not much worse than with the Delta variant.

“As in if you are an unvaccinated person or a two-dose vaccinated person who has lost weight [whose vaccine immunity has waned] They essentially have basic protection, little protection from infection, ”he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe.

“If you’ve had a booster dose or two doses plus a previous infection, you are probably in the safe zone and that is what it looks like now in three different Omicron studies and in Delta studies.”

– CNBC’s Annika Kim Constantino and Spencer Kimball contributed to this story.

Andy Slavitt on omicron Covid variant, vaccines

The new omicron Covid variant poses a greater risk for those who have not been vaccinated and there is reason to believe that the current vaccines will be “quite effective,” a former White House adviser said Monday.

“What we know for sure is that it is a dangerous variant for people who have not been vaccinated,” Andy Slavitt told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia. “

“What we need to learn is whether or not Omicron – how it spreads in an environment where the delta is strong,” he said.

Slavitt previously served as a senior advisor on president Joe Bidens Coronavirus response team and headed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the Obama administration.

Anecdotal reports suggest that Omicron may cause milder disease compared to other variants, but that could be due to “pre-existing immune responses,” said Dr. Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute.

He told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Monday that a “significant part” of the world had been vaccinated or infected with Covid-19 before Omicron even appeared.

“Having a vaccine or previous infection … will mitigate any disease that occurs,” he said, adding that not many people are exposed to Omicron who have not yet been vaccinated or infected.

“We really can’t say if it’s actually more severe in a natural setting or if it’s less severe now because of pre-existing immune responses,” said Kim.

What we know about omicron

The Omicron strain was first identified by South African scientists and has been proven in several countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany.

Health professionals are concerned on the transferability of the Omicron variant in view of its unusual constellation of mutations and profiles that differ from earlier, worrying variants. Scientists are also trying to find out how effective the current vaccines are in protecting people from serious illnesses due to the new strain.

“I think we have good reason to believe that the vaccines will be effective, if not as effective, and that they will be quite effective with a booster,” Slavitt told CNBC. “But Pharma is also going back to the drawing board.”

Covid vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, BioNTech, Modern, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca called they examine and test the omicron variant.

Slavitt said it was possible for updated vaccines to become available if needed in the next few months before the Omicron variant begins to meaningfully spread.

However, the main problem the world is facing right now is vaccine inequality. Information compiled by Our World In Data showed that only around 44% of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But only a small percentage of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

WHO has set a goal of vaccinating 70% of people in all countries by mid-2022. Kim of the International Vaccine Institute said there are also inequalities in Covid testing and sequencing, but that such differences would “hopefully” be resolved over time. He also said it was important to focus on developing vaccines that can prevent transmission.

Slavitt stated that it was too early to say how Omicron will fare compared to the deadly Delta Tribe.

“We get to a point where we have a variant to replace Delta that is not severe or easily medicated, then it will be a whole new day for this pandemic. We can knock on wood what happens now if so. ” not with omicron, it might be next, “he said, adding that such a scenario could potentially make Covid more like a cold.

WHO says omicron Covid variant has unfold to 38 nations

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The World Health Organization said Friday that the Covid-Omicron variant was detected in 38 countries, up from 23 two days ago, with early data suggesting the strain is more contagious than Delta.

“We’re seeing an increasing rate of growth, we’re seeing more and more omicrons being discovered,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for Covid-19, during a Q&A livestream on the group’s social media channels on Friday. “But we have reports of Omicron in 38 countries in all six WHO regions.”

“There is an indication of increased portability. We need to understand whether it is more or less negotiable compared to Delta,” said Van Kerkhove, noting that the Delta variant is still prevalent around the world.

Van Kerkhove said it was too early to understand the severity of the disease caused by omicrones. Early reports of mild symptoms in some of the first cases it was identified were based on a group of university students who tend to be younger and have milder symptoms than older adults, she said.

“There have been initial reports that it was milder, but it’s really too early,” said Van Kerkhove. “Everyone who is infected with SARS-CoV-2, regardless of the variant, always starts with a mild illness. And so it might stop with a mild illness, some people are of course asymptomatic, but it can stop with a mild illness or something “may take some time”.

Van Kerkove said hospital stays are increasing in South Africa, but public health officials have not yet seen an increased risk of death, but they are waiting for more data.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergency health program, said public health officials initially saw mild cases with the alpha and delta variants as well. It could be two weeks before increased Omicron-related mortality is detected if the variant actually causes a more severe illness.

“It takes time, unfortunately,” said Ryan. “We have seen this in previous waves of this pandemic as well. When the incidence rate increases, it takes a week or two for it to lead to hospital admissions and deaths.”

Van Kerkhove warned that there is a reporting bias at the moment that may obscure how virulent the variant really is. Many of the people around the world who tested positive for Omicron have been healthy travelers, which may explain why the symptoms reported so far are mild.

“When you travel you are not sick or you shouldn’t travel when you are sick,” said Van Kerkhove. “So there is a bias in what is being recognized at the moment, but that will change over time.”

The first person in the United States to test positive for Omicron was a fully vaccinated traveler between the ages of 18 and 49 who was returning to the San Francisco area from South Africa.

Van Kerkhove called on nations around the world to step up genetic sequencing of Covid-19 cases to identify new variants and share the results publicly in order to better understand the evolution of the virus.

“Now is the time to strengthen the systems,” she said. “We’ve been hearing that for a long time, but it’s not too late for that – systems need to be strengthened.”

Van Kerkhove noted that South Africa was the first country to report Omicron to WHO, but the schedule could change as more countries are backlog of Covid cases as of November.

“So some of the earliest cases of this particular variant may not occur in South Africa,” she said.

Van Kerkhove and Ryan said the current vaccines are still the most effective measure to slow down the transmission of the virus. Ryan said there was “a clear link” between vaccine injustice and the development of variants around the world. WHO has repeatedly criticized rich nations for not doing enough to provide vaccines to people in poorer countries.

Pfizer and Modern have said it will be about two weeks before researchers know how Omicron is affecting the current vaccines while researchers collect data.

“Right now there’s no need to change the vaccines we’re currently using,” said Ryan. “There is no evidence of it. There is no evidence of change, but there is a lot of work to see how we could change these vaccines if we did change, and that work has to be done in advance.”

Interactive map exhibits the place the Covid omicron variant has been detected

From the USA to Germany and from Saudi Arabia to Australia, the Covid-19 Omicron variant has distributed in dozens of countries global.

The World Health Organization has labeled Omicron, which was first discovered by South African scientists. a “questionable variant” because a large number of mutations the could make the variant more contagious.

Much is still unknown about the variant initially designated as B.1.1.529. Scientists are studying whether it is more communicable, causing more serious illness and death, and whether tests, therapeutics, and vaccines are effective against it.

Still, the advent of the Omicron variant has led some countries to tighten border restrictions and spark new concerns about the health of the global economy. Meanwhile, declining investor sentiment rocked global markets.

Rating agency Moody’s said the Omicron variant had created new uncertainty just as many countries were moving towards a semblance of post-pandemic normality.

“Omicron’s discovery underscores our belief that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a health threat as well as the primary source of uncertainty for the global economy and a driver of financial market volatility,” Moody’s said in a report Tuesday.

The Covid pandemic, which began early last year, has seen more than 263 million reported infections and over 5.2 million known deaths as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

More than 8 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been given, according to Hopkins data. But many low-income countries – especially those in Africa – have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, according to statistics from the online repository Our World in Data.

U.S. confirms nation’s first case of omicron Covid variant in California

US health officials have confirmed the new country’s first case. strongly mutated coronavirus variant named Omicron in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday.

White House senior medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the person who was fully vaccinated had just returned to the San Francisco area from a trip to South Africa on November 22nd and tested positive on November 29th.

“The person is in self-quarantine and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts have so far tested negative,” he announced at a press conference at the White House, at which further details on the case were disclosed. “We feel good that this patient not only had mild symptoms, but that symptoms actually appear to be improving.”

The CDC said genome sequencing was originally performed at the University of California at San Francisco and confirmed by the CDC as an Omicron variant.

California Governor Gavin Newsom warned residents not to panic. “But we should stay vigilant,” he said on Twitter. “That means get vaccinated. Get empowered. Wear a mask indoors.” Newsom has scheduled a press conference on the variant at 3 p.m. ET. Newsom and local officials in San Francisco said they did not expect to put new restrictions on residents in the face of the Omicron.

“There is more panic than information about this new variant,” Newsom said, adding that everyone needs to be more vigilant, but bans are not being considered. “I think we can communicate to avoid closings, we can avoid closing our schools or shops. None of us want that to happen. “

Since South Africa first reported the variant to the World Health Organization a week ago it was found in the Canada, UK, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Hong Kong, among others. World leaders are on high alert and fear that the virus is already spreading around the world.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that Omicron has been reported in at least 23 countries.

Fauci said over the weekend that the variant would inevitably arrive in the US. Two cases were identified in Ontario, Canada, on Sunday. The variant originally known as B.1.1.529 was first discovered in Botswana and the South African province of Gauteng, where Johannesburg is located.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel warned on Monday that Omicron had already spread around the world. He pointed to flights arriving in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday, when 61 out of 624 passengers tested positive for Covid. A total of 14 of them are infected with the Omicron strain, said the Dutch health authorities.

The Portuguese health authorities announced on Monday that 13 members and employees of a professional football team in Lisbon became infected with the variant after one of their players returned from a trip to South Africa.

“We also believe that it is already there in most countries,” said Bancel. “I believe that most of the countries that have had direct flights from South Africa in the past seven to 10 days already have cases in their country that they may not be aware of.”

The USA a travel ban was imposed from Monday for non-citizens who have traveled in the past 14 days in South Africa and seven other nearby countries. The UK and the European Union have similar travel restrictions in place.

President Joe Biden said Monday directs the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use “the fastest, no-compromise method available” to approve and bring potential vaccines for Omikron to market.

Current Covid vaccines are believed to provide at least some protection from the highly mutated Omicron strain, and booster vaccinations “greatly strengthen that protection,” Biden said in a White House speech.

Omicron was named “Variant of concern“By the World Health Organization on Friday, meaning it is more contagious, virulent or adept at bypassing public health measures, vaccines and therapeutics. The variant contains more than 30 mutations in the spike protein that allows the virus to enter the body. The new strain has a total of around 50 mutations, 10 of them in the receptor binding domain, the part of the virus that comes into contact with cells first.

Officials have warned that many of these mutations could lead to increased antibody resistance and transmissibility, which could limit the effectiveness of Covid vaccines.

“The molecular profile of the types of mutations you see (in Omicron) suggests that they may be more transmissible and elude some of the protection offered by vaccines,” Fauci said Wednesday. “But we don’t know that now.”

He said we need to prepare that immun protection from vaccines and recovery from Covid against Omicron could be diminished and stressed the need for boosters.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, Chair of the South African Medical Association, described the symptoms associated with Omicron as “extremely mild” until now. However, Bancel cautioned that the symptoms reported in South Africa may not be a good predictor of the variant’s virulence, with less than 5% of the population being over 60 and far fewer comorbidities than in the US and Europe, where people do tend to get older and sicker.

“I think today it’s really impossible to know … I don’t think what is going to happen in South Africa in the next week or two will predict the full virulence of a virus,” said Bancel.

Drug manufacturers have responded quickly to the new variant. Pfizer and BioNTech said they could study Omicron and adjust their vaccine if necessary. Johnson & Johnson said it was already testing its vaccine against the variant. Modern said it would test three booster candidates against Omicron, including a higher dose of its original Covid booster. The company also said it will develop a booster dose specific to the variant.

For Americans going on vacation, they should still feel safe after Fauci celebrating indoors with the vaccinated family and friends.

“You can feel safe without wearing a mask and having dinner or a reception,” he said. “But if you are in a public gathering where you do not know the vaccination status of the people involved, it is very advisable to wear a mask.”

– CNBC’s Robert Towey and Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.

Omicron Covid variant poses very excessive danger, international unfold seemingly

LONDON – The omicron variant of the Coronavirus is likely to spread further and represents a “very high” global risk according to the World Health Organization, which warned on Monday that increases in Covid infections caused by the worrying variant could have “serious consequences” in some areas.

“Given mutations that can confer an immune escape potential and possibly a transferability advantage, the likelihood of a possible further spread of Omicron on a global level is high,” said the WHO in its risk assessment on Monday within a year technical letter to its 194 member states.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future increases in Covid-19 that could have serious consequences depending on a number of factors including where the increase can occur. The overall global risk associated with the new VOC [variant of concern] Omicron is rated as very high, “said the UN health authority.

The variant B.1.1.529, which was first seen in South Africa, was described by the WHO on Friday as a “worrying variant”.

In his report on Monday it is said that it is “a very different variant with a high number of mutations …

Known strangers

However, there are still considerable uncertainties and unknowns in relation to this variant, it said and repeated this mood on Monday.

First, experts don’t yet know how communicable the variant is and whether an increase in infections is related to immune escape, intrinsic increased communicability, or both.

Second, there is uncertainty about how well vaccines protect against infection, transmission, and clinical disease of varying degrees of severity, as well as death. And third, there is uncertainty as to whether the variant has a different severity profile.

The WHO has announced that it will take weeks to understand how the variant can affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. However, preliminary evidence suggests that the strain has an increased risk of reinfection.

Continue reading: A strongly mutated variant of Covid is appearing in southern Africa: We know that so far

Early data suggests that the variant is spreading faster in South Africa than previous strains and that the variant could trigger a new wave of infections. according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

Covid symptoms related to Omicron have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm about the new strain.

Continue reading: South African doctor, who was the first to discover the Omicron-Covid variant, explains the symptoms

It is very important to remember that so far only a small number of cases have been reported worldwide – in several countries in southern Africa and a couple of cases by doing United Kingdom, France, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, and Hong Kong, but none yet in the US – so it might take a while to fully understand which specific symptoms, if any, are attributable to the larger Omicron variant.

It is also too early to say what health risk the new variant poses on a global level; the international community has already seen several increasingly virulent strains of the coronavirus, first with the “Alpha” variant and then with the “Delta” variant, which is currently dominant worldwide.

Covid vaccines have been instrumental in reducing serious infections, hospital stays and deaths, so new variants are being closely monitored to assess whether and how they could affect vaccine effectiveness.

Mitigation plans

WHO urged Member States to step up monitoring and sequencing efforts to better understand variants, including Omicron, and step up community testing to see if Omicron is in circulation.

It also urged member states to speed up Covid vaccinations “as soon as possible”, especially for high priority groups.

News of a new variant scared global markets on Friday, but European stocks Climbed Monday morning. The region is already grappling with a sharp spike in Delta variant infections, which is putting pressure on health services in a number of countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.

The WHO urged countries to take mitigation measures to prepare for a possible surge in Covid case numbers and the associated pressure on the health system, to ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain basic health services, and the necessary resources for Health care providers are in place to respond to potential surges. “

WHO says delta Covid variant nonetheless the precedence regardless of omicron worries

The world is on high alert because of the new Omicron Covid strain – but Delta is still responsible for most of the current infections worldwide, the World Health Organization pointed out on Monday.

“Over 99% of cases around the world are due to the Delta variant, and the unvaccinated population has more deaths,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia“on Monday.” I think that’s our priority while we wait to find out more [the omicron] Variant.”

Last week the global health authority recognized the variant of Omicron, which was first designated as line B.1.1.529, as a variant of the concern. That means it could be more contagious, virulent, or adept at bypassing public health measures, vaccines, and therapeutics. The strain was first identified by South African scientists.

Delta, on the other hand, was first discovered in India.

Why are health professionals concerned?

Health professionals are concerned on the transferability of the Omicron variant in view of its unusual constellation of mutations and profiles that differ from earlier, worrying variants.

It is really important that anyone who has not yet been vaccinated or has only received one dose receives a full vaccination.

Soumya Swaminathan

Senior Scientist, World Health Organization

“The profile of the mutations strongly suggests that it will have an advantage in transferability and that it could, and possibly even, escape the immune protection you would get from a monoclonal antibody or from the convalescent serum after infection, for example.” against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies, “says US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“So it doesn’t have to happen, but it’s a strong indication that we really need to be prepared for it,” added Fauci.

WHO’s Swaminathan told CNBC that scientists need time to conduct experiments and collect data that would help them answer some of the basic questions surrounding the new variant.

“What we want to know is, is this variant more transmissible, even more than Delta? We want to know if there is a different clinical pattern, is it less severe if it causes disease?” She said, adding, “And thirdly, and very importantly, this variant is able to bypass immune responses either after natural infection or after vaccines.”

She also called on countries where the Omicron variant has been detected to release their clinical data and genome sequence data via the WHO platforms for scientists to investigate.

How quickly does the variant spread?

The omicron variant has now been detected in several places, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia. Many countries have tightened travel restrictions from southern Africa to curb the spread of the new strain.

Covid vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, BioNTech, Modern, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca called they examine and test the omicron variant.

WHO’s Swaminathan said for the moment it should be assumed that existing vaccines would provide some, if not complete, protection against the new strain.

“It’s really important that everyone out there who hasn’t been vaccinated or just received one dose gets a full shot,” she said.

“I think we still have a large number of people around the world who did not have their first vaccination and we also know that at the moment the Delta variant is the main cause of the pandemic around the world,” said Swaminathan added.

Information compiled by Our World In Data showed that around 43% of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But only a small percentage of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

The WHO has repeatedly criticized global vaccine injustice as most syringes were given in affluent or middle-income countries, including booster doses.

Covid variant B.1.1.529 emerges in South Africa: This is what we all know

The World Health Organization got a new one on Friday heavily mutated strain of Covid-19 a variant of the concern.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern,” the WHO said in a statement released on Friday. “Preliminary indications indicate an increased risk of reinfection with this variant compared to other VOCs.”

The variant, which was first known as B.1.1.529 and is now called Omicron, has been found in small numbers in South Africa, WHO officials said. However, the number of Omicron cases “appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa,” the WHO reported on Friday. The omicron variant has since been found in the United Kingdom, Israel, Belgium, Netherlands and Hong Kong.

We know the following so far:

Multiple mutations

South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing from the South African Ministry of Health on Thursday that the variant contains a “unique constellation” of more than 30 mutations in the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells. That is significantly more than with the Delta variant.

Many of these mutations are linked to increased antibody resistance, which can affect the virus’ behavior towards vaccines, treatments, and communicability, health officials said.

De Oliveira said the variant contains around 50 mutations in total. The receptor binding domain, the part of the virus that first comes into contact with cells, has 10 mutations, far more than just two for the Delta-Covid variant, which spread rapidly earlier this year and became the dominant strain worldwide.

This level of mutation means that it is possible that it came from a single patient who was unable to get rid of the virus, which gives them a chance to develop genetically. The same hypothesis has been proposed for the alpha-covid variant.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director on Covid-19, said in a livestream question and answer on Thursday that scientists “don’t know very much about it yet” and that it would take a few weeks to get a full picture of it how the variant responds to existing vaccines.

‘Most important variant’ so far

Great Britain immediately put a flight ban in place from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe from Friday noon to Sunday 4 a.m. local time.

The British health authority is investigating the variant, which, according to Minister of Health Sajid Javid, is “possibly worrying”. No cases have been identified in the UK yet and Javid stressed that while the government needed more data at this early stage, it had chosen to take precautions.

“This is the most significant variant we have come across and there is urgent research to find out more about its transmissibility, severity and susceptibility to vaccines,” said Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of HSA, UK.

Because of the new variant, Israel has also banned travel to several South African countries as well as to Singapore and other countries. Israel has reported a case of the new variant in a traveler returning from Malawi.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with health experts on Friday to discuss the country’s response, which reportedly could include declaring a state of emergency.

Belgium on Friday afternoon became the first European country to report a case of variant B.1.1.529.

However, the WHO warned countries on Friday against hastily imposing travel restrictions. Spokesman Christian Lindmeier said at a UN briefing in Geneva that governments should take a “risk-based and scientific approach” and stressed that it will take several weeks for researchers to understand the possible effects of the variant.

Easier to contain?

“It looks like this particular variant has a very worrying amount of mutations, particularly in the spike protein, which is needed for its transmission properties as well as its protection from the vaccines. So based on the genetic information, we are quite concerned.” Pasi Penttinen, public health emergency manager at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told CNBC on Friday.

“We still have a lot to learn about the situation in South Africa and all efforts should now be made not just in South Africa but in the countries of southern Africa to ensure that they get a full picture of this virus,” said Penttinen called.

However, Francois Balloux, an epidemiologist and director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, told the BBC on Friday that early detection of the variant could help contain it.

Balloux added that even if B.1.1.529 is more transmissible than previous variants, it would not “get to the point” in efforts to contain the virus. He suggested it should be an irritating setback rather than a rebirth of the pandemic.

Distribution not yet known

The first genomes of the new variant were uploaded to the international GISAID database on November 22nd, but now genomes from South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel have been uploaded, the extent of which is not yet known.

The cases so far have been concentrated in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous region and home to nearly 16 million people, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said during Thursday’s briefing.

The two Hong Kong cases were identified at a quarantine hotel, with a person who had traveled from South Africa suspected of having passed the virus on to someone in a neighboring room.

The new development comes as cases of Covid-19, mainly the older Delta variant, increase worldwide during the winter months. Several countries in Europe, in particular, have seen record spikes and have taken tough containment measures.

William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC Friday that the suggestions that the variant could be more communicable than Delta and that it could bypass vaccination protection meant that this was “a matter of serious concern” .

“The Delta variant is already extremely transferable. It’s really hard to imagine another virus that is more transmissible, ”Schaffner told CNBC’s“ Squawk Box Asia ”.

“If we have another strain of Covid that can spread even more easily than Delta, it would be a challenge for all of us around the world because when Delta arrived this summer it changed the game.”

So far, however, it has been positive that the variant has not been associated with more severe cases of Covid-19, Schaffner noted.

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