COVID-19 SPAWNS A VARIANT OF CONCERN – OMICRON (B.1.1.529)

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

COVID-19 is still a local and global reality and has spawned a new variant – Omicron. Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) depending on their level of impact, globally. The SARS-CoV-2 variants are currently classified as: Variants under Monitoring (VUM); Variants of Interest (VOI); and Variants of Concern (VOC).

The World Health Organization has classified the SARS-CoV-2 variant: Omicron (B.1.1.529) as a Variant of Concern (VOC). The B.1.1.529 infection was identified from a specimen collected in South Africa on 9th November 2021, and first reported to WHO on 24th November 2021. Available data are not enough to suggest that Omicron causes more serious disease, as compared to other VOCs, but WHO reports that the variant has “reflected a large number of mutations in the genome, some of which are very concerning. The potential for increased immune escape, combined with a rapid rate of spread, are cause for much concern.”

Speaking at the Government Press Conference on 28th November, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Foster Rogers reported: “All viruses change and mutate. That is what they do in trying to survive…We still have to wait to see the impact of Omicron, but we are hoping that, with the current vaccinations and the increased [level of] vaccination of persons, we will be okay.” He added: “Scientists have noted three things in particular with this [new variant]: there are about 32 mutations of the variant; the mutations are in the spike protein which seems to make [the variant] a little bit more infectious, meaning it can spread more quickly; and, so far, persons infected with the variant seem to experience mild symptoms.”

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Mr. Rogers reiterated that in Anguilla, there are public health and social measures put in place, by the Ministry of Health, to mitigate the symptoms and curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. These protocols need to continue: inoculations; testing and isolation; contact tracing; wearing of masks appropriately; social distancing; and getting tested if one is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Reducing transmission of the virus through established and proven disease control methods, are crucial aspects of the global and local strategy to reduce the occurrence and spread of infection from the virus, as well as to reduce mutations of the virus. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to be effective in detecting the new COVID-19 variant – Omicron, and while the number of cases of the variant appears to be increasing in countries where it is present, thankfully, none have been detected in Anguilla, so far.
COVID-19 WEEKLY STATISTICAL UPDATES
Globally as of November 23:
Total cases: 256 Million
Total deaths: 5.1 Million
New cases: 3.6 Million+
New deaths: 51,000+

In Anguilla as of November 29:
Total cases: 1,386
Total recoveries: 1,273
Active cases: 110
Hospitalisations: 8 (2 vaccinated; 5 unvaccinated; 1 status unknown)
Total deaths: 3 from COVID-19; also (2 persons with COVID-19, but whose deaths were not COVID-19 -related)
Vaccinations:
1st dose: 10,038
2nd dose: 9,213
Pfizer: 1,215
• 1st dose: 479 (includes 374 to children ages 12-17)
• Boosters: 374