The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant to be “of concern” and named it Omicron.
It had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk, the WHO said.
It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa.
On Friday, the WHO said the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa’s provinces.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the UN public health body said in a statement.
It said “the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November”.
The WHO said it would take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists worked to determine how transmissible it was.
The designation of Variant of Concern means:
� countries should share genome sequences
� report initial cases/clusters to WHO
� perform field investigations & lab assessments to understand impacts, epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health & social measures
This new #COVID19 Variant of Concern Omicron underscores the need to accelerate #VaccinEquity and get COVID-19 vaccines to health workers, older people and others at risk who still have not received their first and second doses.