Omicron variant: What you need to know about the new Covid-19 strain

Less than a week after the first case of Omicron was reported, travel restrictions targeting the greater South African Region have been imposed.

The strain poses a new challenge to medical professionals and scientists.

Although much is not yet known, here’s everything you need to know about it so far:

  •  Kenya won’t impose lockdowns and curfews over Omicron, says the Ministry of Health.
  • Kenya is yet to impose international travel restrictions.
  • Kenya is yet to detect any strains of Omicron.
  • Kenya’s Head of Port Health Services, Jackson Muriithi, says there are measures in all points of entry to assist in checking “any sick person from coming into the country”.
  • Cases of Omicron have already been detected in the UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Italy, Belgium, Israel, Denmark, Austria, Czech Republic, Australia, Canada, and Portugal.
  • Omicron presents a large number of mutations which according to WHO pose great challenges to scientists.
  • The Omicron variant has high transmission rates, but it's not yet clear whether it's the fastest of all the other variants, especially Delta.
  •  People previously infected with COVID-19 are more susceptible to contracting Omicron than they are of other COVID-19 variants.
  • Severity of symptoms is still unclear but hospitalisation rates in South Africa from COVID-19 have gone up in the past week.
  • Scientists fear that the many mutations and growth advantages characteristic of the Omicron variant could present significant challenges to the current COVID-19 protocols, including available vaccines. WHO advises that vaccines are still crucial to reducing the severity of disease and death.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Advisor, advised waiting for at least two weeks to fully understand the new variant's response against vaccines.
  • The commonly used PCR tests are accurate and reliable tests for diagnosing the Omicron variant.
  • WHO recommends IL6 Receptor Blockers and Corticosteroids for treatment and management of Omicron infection.