As we move towards the end of the year, I would suppose we are grateful for life and good health. Despite it being a difficult time, we have made it, and are here.
One cannot stress enough, the importance of taking adequate measures to reduce the risk of being infected with Covid-19, as we cross over into 2022.
We should continue social-distancing, wear right fitting masks, follow hygiene measures, avoid crowded spaces and improve ventilation of indoor spaces; just like we did at the start of the pandemic.
Covid-19 was bad. Now imagine it morphing into other versions of itself as it hops from one human to another. This has happened a few times, causing researchers to come close to running out of the Greek alphabet names as they label variants. There have been the Alpha, Beta, Gama, Delta, Epsilon, Kappa, Lambda and Mu variants.
One would hope for the virus to self-destruct or wane in strength, burn out and extinguish itself as it mutates but does it?
You could say some do. There are variants which self-destruct, then there are variants of ‘concern’; the dangerous ones, able to ‘super-spread’ as well as ‘evade vaccines.’
This occurs when they make specific changes to their structure, as if having the awareness that vaccines triggering the human body to go into defense mode, are there to buffer the immune system; so they end up having the ability to bypass antibodies, and the immune system, and attack the cells in the body head-on.
If you’re following the news, the new variant Omicron is causing a global panic of sorts, with good reason.
It has been a couple of months since vaccinations were rolled out, and people were getting to exhale a little bit, in many places putting away the masks as it was deemed optional, and gathering without social-distancing anymore; basically having a sense of normality similar to pre-pandemic times. We are also a few sleeps away from Christmas, and the worst timing for a new variant to surface when people have made travel plans to be with family and friends.
The thing that makes it alarming is that it has about 50 mutations, including more than 30 in the tip, a viral protein on the surface that the vaccines train the body to recognize and attack. The spike protein is an important region of the virus that it uses to bind into cells of the human body and gain entry to begin multiplying more viruses.
Imagine a combination of the Beta variant which helps it bypass vaccines, and then the high infectivity that Delta possesses, the result is Omicron.
Of course, governments across the world have taken quick steps to safeguard their borders from the variant. Countries like Israel and Japan have closed their borders, while Saudi Arabia, Morocco and a number of European Union countries have shut their borders to Southern African countries.
Southern African countries feel sidelined, with the Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation in South Africa stating that “This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.”
Travel hasn’t been the only thing affected. The stock market has taken a beating since the Friday announcement.
There is no clarity at the moment about the severity of this variant, or how things will progress going forward. Preliminary reports have established that Omicron though highly contagious doesn’t cause serious illness or hospitalization, as those affected experience mild symptoms such as fatigue, mild headache, body aches and a scratchy throat. Unlike the Delta variant, patients haven’t complained of losing the sense of taste or smell; nor has there been a major drop in oxygen levels.
As well, companies manufacturing vaccines like Moderna, Pfizer, Sputnik and a few others are already in the process of tweaking them to produce an upgraded vaccine that will be effective against this new variant. It is essentially a ‘wait and see’ attitude as the public is expected to play their part in staying safe.