The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a new heavily-mutated variant of COVID-19 one of concern and given it the name Omicron.
The new variant has raised concerns among world leaders, with several countries moving to restrict travel to countries where it is known to be present amid fears that it could upend global vaccination efforts.
The WHO’s Technical Advisory Group met yesterday to discuss the new variant which was first reported to the organisation by South Africa on Wednesday.
“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 variants of concerns,” the WHO said in a statement.
The European Centre for Disease Control has also called for caution in light of the new variant.
It noted that the variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges of other variants.
Investigations into the variant are currently underway, with no mention yet as to whether the immunity conferred by COVID-19 vaccines is effective against Omicron.
While scientists have said that the variant warrants urgent attention they have also pointed out that more research is needed to determine the extent of the threat.
Yesterday, Malta announced that it was banning travel to and from South Africa and a host of other southern African countries. The EU and US have imposed similar bans.
Even without the new variant, cases have been surging around Europe as the winter sets in.
Malta has also witnessed an uptick in cases, however, the number of hospitalisations remains low. Over 100,000 COVID-19 booster doses have so far been administered, with over 92% of the population fully vaccinated.
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