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Experts say the Omicron Covid model is more likely to flow into longer – and extra extensively – than thought


    Doctors carrying PPE look earlier than a house-to-house coronavirus testing marketing campaign in Lima, Peru, on July 21, 2020.

    Raul Cifuentes | Getty Images News | Getty Images

    LONDON – As extra instances of the brand new Omicron Covid variant emerge world wide, specialists say it’s doubtless that the variant, first recognized in South Africa final week, had already been circulating for a while.

    The World Health Organization stated on Wednesday that at the least 23 of the WHO’s six areas have now reported instances of omicrons, “and we expect that number to rise.”

    The US then grew to become the twenty fourth nation to verify its first case of Omicron. it was present in a fully immunized person In California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed this on Wednesday. the second US case was Identified in a man from Minnesota Minnesota well being officers stated Thursday that signs developed after getting back from New York City, the place he attended a convention from November 19-21. He stated that he too was totally vaccinated and has since recovered.

    different international locations which have Identified Edition UK, france, israel, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and a number of other international locations in Southern Africa.

    The US, Britain and the European Union, amongst others, responded to information of the version final week by briefly suspending flights from southern African international locations, or introducing strict quarantines on anybody arriving from the area.

    The transfer sparked anger in South Africa and prompted criticism from the WHO, which stated on Wednesday that such responses may deter international locations which can be contaminated with virus variants (such because the UK and South Africa, the place main Covid variants have been discovered). ) from being clear. in future.

    Omicron has been hanging round for some time?

    O’Micron Version, or B.1.1.529 as it’s formally recognized, The WHO was first reported from South Africa on 24 November. The first known specimen is dated 9 November,

    But now there are rising indicators that the model was in circulation in different international locations earlier than South African well being officers alerted the world to its presence. There is an rising variety of instances on this space with no journey connection, which reveals that group transmission is going down.

    For instance, in Scotland within the UK, 9 instances have been traced again to a “single private event” held on 20 November and none of these concerned are believed to have any current journey historical past to southern Africa. Is.

    Then, on Tuesday, the Netherlands said that it has identified the omicron variant in two test samples taken in the country between November 19 and 23 – earlier than the version was first reported by South Africa and the journey restrictions got here into pressure. It was initially believed that two flights from South Africa to Amsterdam final Sunday introduced the nation’s first instances of Omicron (there are actually 14 confirmed instances in complete).

    On Tuesday, Germany additionally reported an Omicron case in Leipzig in a person who was not overseas, nor had contact with anybody.

    Dr. Angelique Coetzee, president of the South African Medical Association, and the physician, who had beforehand raised alarm over a doable variant, advised BBC Sunday that she did so when she started seeing sufferers presenting “unusual symptoms” round 18 November . It was barely totally different for these related to the delta variant, which is by far probably the most virulent pressure of the virus.

    Meanwhile, Botswana, one of many international locations hit by Western journey restrictions within the wake of the variant, stated final Friday that it detected the kind for the primary time on 4 overseas nationals who entered the nation on a diplomatic mission on 7 November (then From, a lot sooner than earlier than) it was reported by South Africa) as a part of its common COVID surveillance. It didn’t determine the house nation of the overseas nationals.

    Origin shouldn’t be in Africa?

    In a press briefing organized by the WHO’s Africa Office on Thursday, regional specialists from the UN company advised CNBC that the origins of the Omicron variant have been unknown, they usually criticized restrictive journey measures on southern African international locations.

    “Our surveillance systems in the globalized world are not yet perfect,” Dr Abdul Salam Guay, regional emergency director on the WHO’s Africa Office, advised CNBC throughout a press briefing on Thursday.

    “When we detect a type or virus … usually we’re going to detect it weeks after it starts development. The only thing we’re sure about is when a country detects a virus, So that is, that country has a good surveillance system. That’s what happened in southern Africa, so it further discourages the travel ban because … it’s like a measure against a good surveillance system.”

    He stated it was “not unexpected” that instances have been now being found in Europe.

    “It’s only [with] Investigations are being done we are going to know more about the origin of this virus,” he stated.

    His colleague, Dr Nikki Gumede-Moeletsi, a senior virologist within the WHO’s Africa Office, advised CNBC that the variety of international locations reporting the omicron variant is rising every day.

    “It seems that most of these countries which are [reporting omicron cases] Now … coming from overseas rather than Africa, so we don’t know where it originated and we need very good scientific evidence to study the molecular evolution of the Omicron variant.”

    Experts based mostly in Europe agree that Omicron could have been circulating longer and extra extensively than was initially thought.

    “Omicron’s origin is still unknown, including the place where it first spread,” lead researcher Moritz Kramer from the Oxford Martin Program on Epidemic Genomics at Oxford University advised CNBC on Thursday.

    “This is due to limited sequencing coverage and surveillance in some countries”, he stated, including that South Africa has a well-established system of genomic surveillance.

    “I personally don’t think there hasn’t been a widely known circulation for very long,” Kramer stated. However, he stated he expects the variety of international locations the place Omicron’s imported and native transmissions will probably be a lot greater than reported.

    Experts are extensively anticipating the variant to unfold quickly given early indications from South Africa, the place 74% of virus genomes sequenced previously month have been of the brand new variant.

    Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology on the University of Warwick, advised CNBC on Wednesday that “it’s no surprise that Omicron is circulating more widely and for a longer period of time than previously thought.”

    “Once a sort has been recognized, particularly one that’s more likely to be extra infectious, it should have unfold far past a number of the authentic instances and international locations. This is the character of infectious illness in a world the place worldwide journey is a lot. It is frequent.”

    Some epidemiologists have speculated that the Omicron variant may begin to spread internationally around the end of October, a hypothesis agreed with by other experts spoken by CNBC.

    Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the Norwich School of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, told CNBC on Wednesday that, since the earliest known omicron sample was taken on November 9 in South Africa, “clearly the an infection will need to have been circulating a little bit earlier. Unless the index case was the one wherein the variant developed, however most likely not too way back.”

    While Danny Altman, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said he “actually agrees that it’s a risk” that the Omicron variant was circulating before November, and was not certain that it originated in South Africa.

    “This situation got here to thoughts via the rising instances and glorious sequencing round Gauteng [in South Africa] From the second week of November, neither it’s proved that it was born close to there or that it was the start line.”

    Correction: This story has been up to date to mirror that the primary US case of the Omicron variant was detected in California.



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