Public/Global Health

WHO calls new strain omicron, ‘variant of concern’

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The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting Friday on the new coronavirus strain first identified in South Africa, which it named omicron and labeled a variant of concern (VOC).

“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron,” WHO said in a statement. 

WHO designated the variant as “of concern” due to the variant’s large number of mutations and an increased risk of re-infection, according to evidence from its research. 

The agency also advised countries to enhance their surveillance and sequence efforts to better understand COVID-19 variants, submit a genome sequence to its database GISAID and report initial COVID-19 cases/clusters through its IHR mechanism. 

South African health officials confirmed at a media briefing on Thursday the discovery of the new variant, formerly called B.1.1529, saying the new variant is “very different” from past ones. 

The U.S. on Friday announced travel restrictions on eight African nations over concerns about omicron.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 omicron South African COVID-19 variant World Health Organization

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