There is much that is still unknown about Omicron, the newest Sars-CoV-2 variant, that has been designated as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation. The variant was first reported in South Africa on November 24, and has since, spread to over 15 countries or regions, as of now. In response, several countries have begun imposing travel restrictions and closing borders, similar to what we saw happening last year, during the initial waves of the pandemic. Omicron is a heavily mutated strain, with over 32 mutations in the spike protein of the virus, some in part of the protein required for binding to human receptor proteins for entry into cells. This has raised concerns that the variant may be more transmissable and also that it may hamper the efficacy of our current treatments for the disease. Another concern has been that the variant may have vaccine escape properties. However, scientists will require possibly several more weeks before they can determine whether any of these concerns are valid.What do we now know about the variant? Are travel restrictions and bans really effective, given that the new variant is already spreading? With India having vaccinated nearly 80% of the eligible population with the first dose and about 38% with both doses, what more needs to be done to take measures against the new variant?
Guest: Dr. Shahid Jameel, Virologist and Fellow at OCIS and Green Templeton College, University of Oxford
Host: Zubeda Hamid