The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021
Geneva: The World Health Organization (WHO) today designated B.1.1.529 as a Variant of Concern (VOC), named Omicron. The decision was taken following the advise of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-COV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).
Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE, an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus, advised WHO that this variant
The TAG-VE was convened on November 26, 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529, which was
WHO stated today that the epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterised by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply,coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” WHO stated, revealing that preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.
“The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2
There are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed. WHO asked countries to do the following:
- enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
- submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as global initiative on sharing avian flu data (GISAID).
- report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the International Health Regulations (IHR) mechanism.
- where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.
Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.
It may be mentioned that a SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Interest (VOI) is a SARS-CoV-2 variant:
- with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape; and
- that has been identified as causing
significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.
A SARS-CoV-2 VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:
- increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
- increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
- decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics
– global bihari bureau