South Africa announced that it fears that vaccines will not work on the new Corona mutator variant, Omicron.
The detection of a worrying new mutation from the Coronavirus, which scientists indicated as a great leap in development, has prompted many countries to impose travel restrictions from the region.
The latest is the most heavily mutated version discovered so far – and it has such a long list of mutations that it was described by one scientist as “horrific”, while another scientist said it was the worst variant they’d seen.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the W.H.O. said in its official description. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other” variants.
It is also incredibly heavily mutated. Prof Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, said there was an “unusual constellation of mutations” and that it was “very different” from other variants that have circulated.
“This variant did surprise us, it has a big jump on evolution [and] many more mutations that we expected,” he said.
Within hours, Britain, Israel, and Singapore announced restrictions on travelers from South Africa and several neighboring countries, due to the threat posed by the new mutant.
On Friday morning, markets in Japan were pulled back by the discovery, while officials in Australia and New Zealand said they were watching the new mutation closely.
During the past two days, scientists monitored the B1.1.529 mutant after they detected an increase in cases in the city of Johannesburg, which represents the economic center of South Africa. So far, 22 positive cases of this mutation have been detected in the country, according to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in South Africa. Two cases were reported in Hong Kong, both apparently linked to a person who had traveled from South Africa. While no cases have yet been detected in Britain.
A number of mutations have emerged since the beginning of the pandemic. One concern about it is whether it will hinder the fight against the virus or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
South African scientists will meet with the technical team of the World Health Organization today to discuss the new mutant. But governments are not waiting for restrictions to be imposed. Britain banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Eswatini The six countries will be added to the country’s red list, which will require British travelers from those countries to go into quarantine upon arrival.