Infographic: what we know about the Omicron variant
- First recorded in South Africa, the variant has caused Covid-19 cases in a growing number of countries
- Here is what we know so far as scientists work to establish its transmissibility, severity of symptoms and whether it can overcome vaccine protection
Omicron (often pronounced “oh-me-cron” or “ah-me-cron”), or the B.1.1.529 variant, was first reported to the WHO by South Africa on November 24.
The WHO has estimated it has 26 to 32 mutations in the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to human cells. This is three to four times the eight mutations observed in the Delta variant’s spike protein.
Scientists will need at least weeks longer to find out how transmissible the virus is, the severity of the symptoms it causes, the risk of reinfection, and the effectiveness of existing vaccines and treatments against it. However, they do expect existing vaccines to maintain some protection against severe disease and death.
In the meantime, the best way you can protect yourself and those around you is to minimise your exposure to the virus. WHO-recommended measures include wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, practising good personal hygiene such as washing your hands regularly, and getting vaccinated.