WHO classifies South Africa strain as 'variant of concern', asks people to reduce exposure

WHO has named the variant 'Omicron'

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 27

The WHO’s technical advisory group on Sars Cov2 evolution on Friday night classified the newly detected B.1.1529 as a 'variant of concern' (VOC) citing its worrisome properties including the ability to carry several mutations.

Photo for representation purposes.

Speaking after the meeting, Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid technical lead, WHO emergencies programme, said the variant detected in South Africa and Botswana has now been classified as a variant of concern and more studies are under way to assess its transmissibility and severity and results will be available in some days.

WHO has named the variant Omicron.

“We understand that the people are concerned. They should lower their exposure, practise public health measures, including distancing, masking and hand hygiene. Nations should enhance genome surveillance to detect the variant,” Kerkhove said.

WHO said it would inform the nations soon as it learnt more about the variant.

Omicron is the fifth Covid variant to be classified as a variant of concern after alpha, beta, gamma and delta.

The variant was detected in South Africa some days ago.

WHO has not advised travel restrictions yet but has asked nations to practise scientific surveillance methods to detect the variant.

What is a VOC?

A SARS-CoV-2 VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that 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 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.

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