New Covid19 variant named Omicron by WHO

Belgium has become the first European country to confirm a case of the new variant. The European Union is already struggling to cope with fresh waves of coronavirus, and several countries have re-imposed lockdowns and restrictions. Since Thursday a number of countries have placed restrictions on travel from southern Africa amid concerns about the variant. The EU has agreed to ban flights from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, following a call to do so from the European Commission on Friday. The US has also banned visitors from those countries, and from Malawi.

File pic of people arriving at Heathrow
All flights from South Africa cancelled from today.

On Friday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons it was “highly likely” the B.1.1.529 variant – which has been named Omicron by the World Health Organization – had already spread from South Africa and Botswana. No cases have been detected in the UK to date. Travellers from these countries, as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini, will have to self-isolate for 10 days, with those arriving in England after 04:00 GMT on Sunday having to quarantine in a hotel.

Why spike changes are important

Although Omicron has yet to reach the UK, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has said his “greatest worry” is whether people will accept fresh curbs on activities to tackle Covid variants. England has been through three national lockdowns since Covid first struck, and there have also been many local restrictions imposed at various points during the past 20 months. Prof Whitty told a panel discussion hosted by the Local Government Association: “My greatest worry at the moment is that people… if we need to do something more muscular at some point, whether it’s for the current new variant or at some later stage, can we still take people with us?” But he added that, despite previous restrictions being “very destructive” to society and the economy, the public had shown an “extraordinary” ability to “just accept that there are things we collectively have to do to protect one another and do collectively”. click full source.

So there we have it. Judging from the reaction of the scientific community and the swift action by nations worldwide to close their borders to Southern African countries, Omicron may be more transmissible than Delta and may also evade current vaccines. This could lead to lockdown measures over the festive period in the UK. Only time will tell.

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