When everyone thought that they have defeated coronavirus and things will be back to normal, a new variant became the talk of the town. WHO identified a new variant on 26th November 2021 and named it Omicron. Technical Advisory Group on virus Evolution (TAG-VE) identified many mutants of Omicron that have a pattern of symptoms and effects depending upon several factors.
What is Omicron?
Omicron is the new variant B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2. It’s case was first reported in South Africa on 24th November 2021. After that, cases from the UK have also emerged. The data on the newly found variant is scarce to determine anything, however; scientists have enough information about this family of the virus to determine the main features. One thing is for sure, the emergence of Omicron is a clear message that this virus is capable of mutating into various variations.
Until now around 300-350 cases of Omicron have been identified from across the world (21 countries to be precise). Based on the current upcoming cases, it has been determined that Omicron is transmissible. However, the intensity and speed of transmission and other characteristics (as compared to other variants) are still unclear. Moreover, scientists are studying many external variables as the cause of Omicron or coronavirus-like symptoms. The presented data is not enough to make any official statements.
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Symptoms of Omicron
Although the appearance of symptoms has shown irregular patterns depending upon individuals’ demographic and other traits. However, the following symptoms have been identified after studying the present cases.
- Cough, congestion, and runny nose or flu.
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Fever and shortness of breath.
- Only a few people presented with Omicron lost their sense of smell and taste.
- Few of the people presented with Omicron had coronavirus infection.
- Many people who were confirmed with Omicron infection had been vaccinated, which means that even the vaccinated people need to be careful. However, the current vaccine is working against severe symptoms and the death of patients.
- People who received booster shots were also presented with Omicron.
- Only one case was hospitalized.
- Some cases were under the age of 40 years that indicates the possibility of all age groups being affected by it.
Cases across the World
After the emergence of the Omicron variant in South Africa, the countries suspended their flights with South Africa out of the fear of transmission. However, many cases were reported after that in many countries. Scotland reported 9 cases. The US and UK also reported some cases. Later, Germany reported a case with no history of travel. Botswana also reported four diplomats with Omicron who were traveling on a diplomatic mission. WHO reports the spread of Omicron in 57 countries including many European, African, and some Asian countries.
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An Emerging Threat to Pakistan
National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) shows concern over the rapid spread of Omicron across the world. It says that there is a high chance the new variant will hit Pakistan as it is hitting other countries. The best one can do is to take precautions against its spread and take necessary measures to deal with the virus if it spreads in the country.
Upon hearing the emergence of a new variant from South Africa, many countries suspended their flights to and fro South Africa. Pakistan was one of them. Moreover, countries have tightened the screening and quarantine process upon arrival and departure at airports. Since the world is a global village now, there is no chance to prevent the Omicron from entering Pakistan.
The government showed concern over the rapid spread of virus in South Africa, where the positivity rate increased from 0.9% to 9.77% in just 12 days. Looking into the data presented by WHO and countries with most cases of Omicron, government and authorities encourage people to vaccinate themselves as soon as possible to avoid worsening conditions in the country.
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Is Pakistan Prepared for Another Wave?
In the past couple of years, just like the rest of the world, Pakistan has also exhausted its resources to prevent coronavirus and treat many patients of coronavirus. Pakistan and the world have seen their share of losses due to coronavirus. The medical facilities and medical experts are exhausted beyond their limits. In addition to that, the global economy has hit a low because of coronavirus. It is difficult for the world including Pakistan to continue dealing with new variants every year.
Moreover, human immunity has declined because of the prolonged threat of coronavirus along with its many variants. Therefore, Omicron-Virus poses a greater threat to Pakistan and the rest of the world. According to Pakistani authorities getting fully vaccinated seems to be the only answer in reducing the effects of this variant as of now.
According to Dr. Faisal Sultan (Special Assistant to PM on health),
“Omicron variant is a cause of concern because it is spreading at a rapid pace. This will strain the healthcare system, resulting in a shortage of beds and oxygen………. As it’s impossible to stop the virus from entering Pakistan, it is imperative to get fully vaccinated at the earliest,”
Considering the developing conditions, it is our civic duty to fully vaccinate and stop the spread of the virus. Be safe!