Omicron COVID-19 Variant – Here’s What You Need To Know (Updated Jan 2022)
Omicron is the B.1.1.529 Variant of SARS-Cov-2 Coronavirus first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. Here’s what we know so far from official health information sources such as WHO:
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What is Omicron?
The B.1.1.529 Variant of SARS-Cov-2 is the latest mutation to be reported as of November 24th, 2021. It is named Omicron, after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet. The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about Omicron. They advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.
What is Variant of Concern?
According to the CDC, a Variant of Concern (VOC) is a variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failure.
According to the World Health Organization, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is more transmissible than the Delta variant, and reduces vaccine efficacy but also causes less severe symptoms, according to early data.
Omicron in Malaysia
As of Dec 31, Malaysia has detected 64 Covid-19 cases of Omicron variant. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin cautions about the spread of Omicron as Rt. approaches 1.0. Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant, however he advised the following measures to control the spread: A wider booster shot coverage, wearing face masks, good ventilation, #TRIIS, MySJ Trace, and international border control.
On December 18, Astro Awani reports that Malaysia has detected another 11 Omicron cases within the country. All of the cases were imported cases.
On Dec 16, The New Straits Times reported that Malaysia has detected its second Omicron case, involving an eight-year-old Malaysian girl, who arrived from Lagos, Nigeria with her mother and sister, who tested positive for Covid-19.
On Dec 7, The Malay Mail reports that according to health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, additional precautionary public health measures will come into effect tomorrow for travellers from countries earmarked with reported cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. For the full details, read the article here.
Are there Omicron cases in Malaysia?
On 3rd December, Malaysia detected its first Omicron case, according to health minister Khairy Jamaluddin. The case involved a non-citizen traveller from South Africa.
On November 30, News Straits Times reported that Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia’s plan to move into the endemic phase from the current Covid-19 pandemic status will be put on “pause”. According to the minister, the decision was made during the Quartet Ministerial Meeting, saying the government wanted to learn more about the new Covid-19’s Omicron variant.
Astro Awani reports that KKM Malaysia is keeping a close watch on Omicron developments and updates from WHO and other countries.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said continuous tracking of developments would help the ministry impose travel restrictions to any country if necessary. He also said that The RTK-Antigen and RT-PCR tests are effective in detecting the Omicron variant of the virus, as reported by The Malay Mail.
Omicron around the world
On Jan 8 2022, CNBC reports that Cyprus has discovered a COVID-19 variant which combines Omicron and Delta.
On December 10, The South China Morning Post reports that Singapore has detected its first Omicron case (local transmission), which involes a 24-year-old airport employee with no recent history of travel.
Reuters also reported that in the US, most of the 43 Omicron cases thus far are people who are fully vaccinated, with 1/3 having received a booster short.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that of the 43 cases attributed to Omicron variant, 34 people had been fully vaccinated. Fourteen of them had also received a booster, although five of those cases occurred less than 14 days after the additional shot before full protection kicks in.
Reuters reports that Britain, Germany and Italy have reported several cases of Omicron coronavirus variants. Few countries have started to impose restrictions on travel from southern Africa. Australia has also detected a few cases and have imposed travel restrictions from the following countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.
Are Existing Vaccines Effective Against Omicron Variant?
BBC reports that according to a WHO official, Existing vaccines should still protect people who contract the Omicron variant from severe Covid cases.
Best Way To Prevent Omicron Transmission
According to the CDC, vaccines are still the most effective public health measure to protect people from Omicron, slower transmission rates and reduce the chances of new variants emerging. COVID-19 vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death.
It is also mentioned that Scientists are currently investigating Omicron— including how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization, and death due to Omicron.