The World Health Organization (WHO) has come up with an official name for the B.1.1.529 variant of Covid-19 detected in the South African region -- Omicron.
The Guardian also reported that the WHO has officially designated it a variant of concern, according to a recommendation from an advisory group.
In its statement, the WHO said that preliminary evidence suggests the latest variant carries a "higher risk of re-infection than other variants of concern".
It also said,
"The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021. This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.
Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs (variants of concern).
The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa."
In response to the developments, Singapore has tightened border measures for travellers from seven African countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that the additional border restrictions will last for four weeks, after which they may be extended.
MOH added that while the variant has been suggested to be more transmissible, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine if this variant is associated with any change in disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
Other countries like the UK, Japan, and the European Union have imposed similar restrictions, according to The Guardian.
Switzerland has not only banned flights from South Africa, but also imposed travel restrictions on other countries and regions that have recorded cases of Omicron, such as Israel, Belgium and Hong Kong.
Not yet detected in Singapore
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung took to Facebook on Nov. 26 to update the public that so far, Singapore has no cases of the new variant.
MOH is in touch with its counterparts around the world and evaluating the data.
Ong said measures will be adjusted accordingly as more information comes in.
He added, "This is a reminder to us that the virus will continue to evolve and pose new challenges and uncertainties to us, and we should not let our guard down."
Top image by Tai's Captures via Unsplash
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