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New Variant 'Omicron' Has Set Off a Wave of Panicked Mutation Memes

Meme shows a man trying to live his best life and about to get bit by a dog. Credits: Twitter/@chemicalmarx.

Meme shows a man trying to live his best life and about to get bit by a dog. Credits: Twitter/@chemicalmarx.

Omicron’s actual risks are not yet understood. But early evidence suggests it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants.

The Covid-19 variants seem like they’re never going to end, just like the memes on them. Nearly two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, the world raced Friday to contain a new coronavirus variant - B.1.1.529 - potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent. A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States. Omicron’s actual risks are not yet understood. But early evidence suggests it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted Covid-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again. It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.

The WHO flagged the distinct peak in reported cases in South Africa. From just over 200 new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks, the region has seen the number of new daily cases rocket to 2,465 on Thursday. Struggling to explain the sudden rise in cases, scientists studied virus samples from the outbreak and discovered the new variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November, 2021, the report by the health body said. The variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning, the WHO said, adding that according to preliminary evidence, an increased risk of reinfection is assumed with this variant, as compared to other ‘Variant of Concerns’.

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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, the WHO said in its advisory for the general public after the variant’s discovery. India, since the start of the pandemic, has enforced mask-wearing in public, physical distancing to curb cases.

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first published:November 27, 2021, 11:49 IST