Omicron – a new variant
GS 2: Health
- The new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 has been named ‘Omicron’ by World Health Organisation on 26 November. It was also designated a variant of concern by the UN health agency on the same day. As of now the new coronavirus variant has reported cases from eleven countries globally including Britain, Australia, Germany, South Africa and others.
What is Omicron?
- The number of new cases in South Africa has increased fourfold, corresponding with the introduction of the B.1.1.529 variant.
- The B.1.1.529 variant has been categorised as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern” by the WHO. This variant is named Omicron.
- The B1.1.529 has more than 2 times the number of bad spike mutations than the Delta variant. The new variant has an extremely high 32 worrisome mutations in the spike protein, which is a real concern than the Delta variant.
- It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off.
- The WHO reiterated that, pending further advice, countries should use a “risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures in a timely manner”, while acknowledging that a rise in coronavirus cases might lead to higher morbidity and mortality rates.
- The WHO urged ramping up surveillance and sequencing to better understand how the virus was mutating and pushed for community testing to check the Omicron variant’s prevalence. It also stressed on the need to vaccinate quickly, especially the vulnerable population and strengthen the healthcare system.
5 variants of concern:
- Omicron (B.1.1.529), identified in southern Africa in November 2021.
- Delta (B.1.617.2), which emerged in India in late 2020 and spread around the world.
- Gamma (P.1), which emerged in Brazil in late 2020.
- Beta (B.1.351), which emerged in South Africa in early 2020.
- Alpha (B.1.1.7), which merged in Britain in late 2020.
What is Variant of Concern (VOC)?
- There is evidence of increased transmissibility, more severe sickness, and a considerable reduction in neutralisation by antibodies developed from previous infection or immunisation for this variety.
- Besides that, it might be the result of decreased treatment or vaccination efficiency, or diagnostic detection failures.
Possible Attributes Of A Variant Of Concern:
Endemic Western Ghats Flycatchers
Down to Earth
- The Black-and-orange Flycatcher (BOF) and the Nilgiri Flycatcher (NIF), two species endemic to the Western Ghats, could suffer a loss of 31 per cent and 46 per cent of their range respectively by 2050 due to climate change, according to a study published in Current Science.
- Black-and-orange Flycatcher and Nilgiri Flycatcher are monotypic speciesendemic to the southern Western Ghats and confined to higher elevations.
- BOF prefers the understorey of shola forests, especially among the stunted evergreen forest patches in the sky islands of Western Ghats.
- The NIF is also found above 600 m elevation but more frequently above 1200 m.
- Moreover, about 75% of the currently suitable areas of both these species lie outside the protected area network in the Western Ghats.