The World Health Organization designated Omicron a “variant of concern” just days after it was first reported. Omicron was discovered in South Africa. It was first sequenced in neighbouring Botswana and then in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Cases of Omicron have now been reported in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, China, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Israel.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, urges people in Canada and abroad to double down on precautions. She recommends wearing a mask that fits your face, ensuring you and your family are fully vaccinated, avoiding crowded places, and improving ventilation.
Scientists are currently studying the new variant’s characteristics, including vaccines’ role in stopping its spread.
For the African continent, the biggest concern is the potential impact of Omicron if it spreads to other parts of the continent. In African countries overall, only about 5% of the population have been vaccinated. COVID-19 cases in Africa have been underreported due to limited healthcare resources and infrastructure that has led to a lack of testing, accessibility, and access.
The South African government has encouraged more vaccine accessibility across the continent and said: “Let us crush the power of the new variant by vaccinating to limit the number of mutations.”
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 key takeaway for everyone across the world is that we are in this together. Therefore, we must support our neighbours near and far.
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Merelli, A. (n.d.). Why you’re not hearing about covid-19 outbreaks in Africa. Quartz. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://qz.com/africa/2079064/only-one-in-seven-cases-of-covid-19-in-africa-is-reported/.
Reuters. (2021, November 30). Omicron covid-19 variant poses ‘very high’ global risk, who warns – national. Global News. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/8409443/omicron-covid-19-variant-very-high-global-risk-who/.