World, Health

WHO declares new virus strain from southern Africa 'variant of concern'

UN health agency names new variant Omicron

Peter Kenny   | 26.11.2021
WHO declares new virus strain from southern Africa 'variant of concern'

GENEVA 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday declared the new COVID-19 variant from southern Africa a "variant of concern," and named it Omicron.

The declaration came after the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution – an independent group of experts – met to assess the variant initially named B.1.1.529.

The "variant of concern" has a large number of mutations, is more transmissible, and possibly more adept at eluding public health measures including vaccines, according to the WHO.

The new variant was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Wednesday, and has also been found in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.

"Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other Variants of Concern," the UN health agency said, and urged individuals to take steps to reduce their risk of COVID-19.

These include wearing face masks, maintaining hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving the ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

Many countries including Turkey, the US, UK, and EU states are implementing travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa.

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