JAKARTA - The novel beta-coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have emerged from bats with furtherance of infection through human-to-human transmission.1 Since its development in November 2019, it has spread to 188 countries and 25 territories around the globe, despite elaborate efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) and respective governments to contain the contagion, primarily owing to the highly infectious nature of the virus.2
Mutations have led to several new concerning coronavirus strains, including the B.1.1.7 Alpha variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom; the B.1.351 Beta variant, which originated in South Africa; the P.1 Gamma variant, which originated in Brazil; the B.1.617.2 Delta variant, which was first documented in India, and recently the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa. What do we know about the new variant?
On November 26, the WHO designated the B.1.1.529 Omicron strain a variant of concern (VOC) because of the large number of mutations that could make it more contagious.
Researchers from all around the world are now conducting studies to get a better understanding of the strain.3 Understandably, people are worried about Omicron since it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible and will cause more severe disease compared to other variants.
Hospitalization rates are rising in South Africa, preliminary data suggests, but this may be due to ever more people becoming infected, rather than specific infection with Omicron, though an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron may be present in, e.g., those who already had COVID-19 - who may more easily become reinfected with Omicron - as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited.3
Health experts are concerned about changes because the Omicron variant has 60 mutations.5The content herein is subject to copyright by The Yuan. All rights reserved. The content of the services is owned or licensed to The Yuan. Such content from The Yuan may be shared and reprinted but must clearly identify The Yuan as its original source. Content from a third-party copyright holder identified in the copyright notice contained in such third party’s content appearing in The Yuan must likewise be clearly labeled as such.