The World Health Organization has classified the new Corona variant B.1.1.529 as “worrying” and thus assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet to it. The variant that was found mainly in South Africa and Botswana is called Omikron.
D.he Corona variant B.1.1.529 is officially considered “worrying”. This was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) after consulting a group of experts on Friday evening. This means that the variant is assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet like others before: Omicron.
A statement from the organization said the variant had a large number of mutations, including some worrying ones. Preliminary indications indicated an increased risk of reinfection with this variant compared to other worrying variants, which also include the currently predominant delta variant. The WHO is also responsible for the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa.
According to the WHO, B.1.1.529 was discovered in South Africa using genetic analysis from November 9th. In total, the variant has so far been genetically detected less than 100 times. It has many mutations that scientists believe could potentially lead to easier transmission. However, according to the WHO, it will be weeks before it becomes clear what the exact effects of the mutations are.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta are already “worrying variants”
So far, the international health authority had identified four “variants of concern” (VOC): Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, which contributed to the fourth wave of pandemics due to their high transferability. In addition, two “variants of interest” (VOI) are listed that appeared in South America at the turn of the previous year: Lambda and Mu. Other VOI have since been removed from the list.
The European Commission, Germany and a few other states announced on Friday that they would restrict entry from southern Africa. Instead, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier recommended scientifically sound measures and risk assessments on behalf of his organization. “As of this writing, there are reservations about travel restrictions,” he said. From the perspective of the WHO, damage to international traffic should be avoided. Instead, the precise observation of the infection process and the genetic analysis of any corona cases should be relied on.
The South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla called the travel restrictions “unjustified”. So far it is unclear whether variant B.1.1.529 is more contagious than other variants, he said at a press conference.