What’s Omicron?

According to the scientists, this B.1.1.529 ‘Omicron’ variant, is a newly identified strain of Coronavirus with 30 plus different mutations in the Covid-19 spike protein which makes the process of its transmission easier.

The presence of these multiple mutations on the spike protein facilitates the virus’s entry into the body with more ease making the strain more dangerous. The effects and their impact are still being studied. Apparently, the variant also seems to possess immunity against the available Covid-19 vaccines, which aggravates the threat, health experts say.

Where is Omicron now and where will it spread next?

The scientists in South Africa first detected the variant in a patient with Covid-19 from Botswana on November 24. Subsequently, the variant was detected in South Africa. Some sources say that the variant may have been in Europe days before it was detected in South Africa.

Some 89 countries have reported Omicron as of December 18 and it is spreading rapidly. Omicron spreads at the rate not seen with the previous variants according to the WHO.

China was the second country to report Omicron on November 25. Belgium, Netherlands and Botswana followed on November 26. Five more countries detected the variant on 27 and then it continued. “Omicron will outpace the Delta variant in a few weeks,” WHO said.

To stop the variant from spreading, many countries imposed entry restrictions for foreigners while several countries initiated the third dose to protect their people from the new variant.

WHO last week announced that the increased transmission is expected and it would lead to hospitalization and burden the healthcare system. “Overburdened system will lead to death,” WHO said last week.

Omicron is not a mild strain

World Health Organization (WHO), last week cautioned that Omicron is not a “mild” strain.

In fact, Omicron could have a full spectrum of the disease, from being asymptomatic to mild disease, all the way to severe disease to death.

WHO said Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 in the spike protein, some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.

The identification of new variants is expected, as it is a natural part of the virus life cycle according to Internet sources.

Tools to fight Omicron

In the light of the Omicron, many rich countries rolled out booster doses to the priority population, as it is known to be the most important defence against the Omicron.

The head of the European Office of the World Health Organisation, Dr Hans Kluge has urged people to get a booster jab stating it was the single most important defence against the Omicron. He has said this during a joint press conference yesterday.

Likewise, Bhutan’s Health Ministry announced that the booster dose for the priority group would be rolled out starting December 24. A total of some 228,581 will be boosted.

Meanwhile, Israel on Tuesday has offered a fourth dose to the population above 60.

According to the Internet sources, vaccines, masks and testing are the tools in fighting the fast transmitting Omicron. The vaccine is the best public health measure to protect people from Covid-19, slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.

“Mask has a protection against all the variants and test can tell you if you are currently infected with the Covid-19.”

Pandemic to endemic

Covid will become an endemic disease as early as 2024, Pfizer executives have said on December 17. This means the virus will transition from a global emergency to a constant presence causing regional outbreaks across the world, like the flu.

“We believe Covid will transition to an endemic state, potentially by 2024,” Nanette Cocero, global president of Pfizer Vaccines, had said during an investor call.

Covid-19 would reach the endemic level when populations have enough immunity from vaccines or from prior infections to keep transmissions, hospitalisations and deaths under control even as the virus circulates.

Meanwhile, India recorded 213 Omicron cases, Thailand has 63 and Nepal has three cases as of yesterday.


Compiled by Nima Wangdi and Samdrup Tshering