Omicron variant cases spread and countries rush to impose travel bans

Based on early evidence seen in South Africa, the Omicron variant is transmitting faster than the Delta variant, said Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and former head of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid- 19 said.

While little is known about the new variant and studies are underway, there are a few things that Karim says we can extrapolate and expect.

“To put it very simply, this new variant, Omicron, has mutations that are common to the previous four that are of interest. So it has the same mutations as the Delta variant. So they are. I hope it goes faster,” he told CNN Monday.

“And based on the early evidence we’ve seen in South Africa, it’s definitely traveling faster than the Delta variant. And based on what we’ve seen with the Beta variant overlap, we’re seeing a some evidence of immune escape from antibodies. There’s probably going to be a partial escape. And that’s what we’re expecting,” added Karim.

“The data to confirm exactly the points I’ve made will probably take another two to three weeks.”

Symptoms of this variant in patients are also more difficult to identify, he said.

Meanwhile, Karim heavily criticized the new travel restrictions around the world as many countries have closed their borders to South Africa and other neighbours.

“It’s infuriating that South Africa and southern Africa are being punished for doing good monitoring and making sure we want complete transparency and sharing this data with the rest of the world,” he said. “This kind of early knee-jerk response to blocking movement would probably only slow the seed down a bit but would probably have little, if any, impact.”



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