Because the world waits to learn how harmful the super-mutated COVID variant Omicron is likely to be, Dutch authorities revealed that 61 individuals arriving on two flights from South Africa—the place the pressure has been spreading—have examined optimistic.
It’s not know whether or not the passengers had been contaminated with Omicron or an earlier model of the coronavirus, however the discovery underscores the chance that the brand new variant has already gone world.
Beforehand, instances had been recognized solely in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, and Belgium—all of them vacationers from international locations in southern African.
The emergence of Omicron prompted a global freakout, with the U.S., the U.Okay., and different nations banning journey from South Africa and its neighbors and the inventory market taking its worst plunge of the yr.
“It appears to unfold quickly,” President Joe Biden mentioned in asserting the journey restrictions. “I’ve determined that we’re going to be cautious.”
However the optimistic assessments from the 2 KLM flights that landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport dramatically illustrated the potential menace. Well being specialists imagine Omicron is behind South Africa’s current COVID surge—and 10 % of these on the jets had been contaminated.
These fliers at the moment are in quarantine, however the specter of different contaminated vacationers slipping by testing protocols and happening to their locations undetected looms massive.
Whereas there have been loads of COVID variants recognized—together with the Delta pressure that sparked this yr’s lethal surge—Omicron is of explicit concern as a result of it has greater than 30 mutations to the spike protein that enables the virus to bind to human cells.
Public well being officers try to find out if that makes it extra transmissible—even within the vaccinated—and whether or not it causes extra extreme sickness or carries a better threat of loss of life.
With so little identified, many scientists are warning individuals to be cautious however to not panic.
“At the very least from a speculative standpoint we now have some optimism that the vaccine ought to nonetheless work in opposition to a brand new variant for severe illness however actually we have to wait a number of weeks to have that confirmed,” Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group advised the BBC.