The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday has issued directives for countries to follow in tackling the latest variant of Covid-19 which it designated as ‘Omicron’.
The global health agency announced the new measures against the deadly virus in a statement on its official website.
“The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus. The TAG-VE was convened on 26 November 2021 to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529.
“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron,” the statement added.
The variant was first discovered in South Africa on 24 November 2021.
The development has forced countries like the United States and the United Kingdom to place travel restrictions on South Africa, among other countries.
WHO says that despite the millions of lives lost to the coronavirus, Omicron is of more concern.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant,” it added.
Subsequently, the organization advised countries and every people to implement the following measures :
“Enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
“Submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.
“Report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.
“Where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.
“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.”