World Health Organization Calls New COVID-19 Strain a “Variant of Concern”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the newly discovered immensely mutated and more transmissible strain of COVID-19 ‘Omicrom’, and dubbed it a “variant of concern” on Friday.

WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said in a video on Twitter that, “Omicron, B.1.1.529, is named as a variant of concern because it has some concerning properties. This variant has a large number of mutations, and some of these mutations have some worrying characteristics”.

Named after the Greek letter, the Omicron strain was first identified in South Africa and later in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel. Meanwhile, the WHO said that the number of Omicron cases “appears to be increasing” in almost all the provinces of South Africa.

This variant has an extraordinary collection of mutations that may increase its ability to elude some, but not all, of the defenses of the COVID-19 vaccines, and is raising concerns about it being more infectious than the Delta strain. Germany’s BioNTech is studying how well the coronavirus vaccine that it developed with Pfizer safeguards against the new variant.

The WHO stated that the “current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant”.

The new strain has triggered global concerns afresh, and the WHO has also has urged countries to enhance their surveillance and virus sequencing efforts to increase their understanding of the circulating variants.