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Just as things were getting back to normal with people travelling around the globe, businesses were picking up pace, social gatherings were organized, the world was yet again hit by a new variant of Covid-19. This B.1.1.529 variant originated from South Africa and its first sample was collected on 9th November, 2021 and is considered to be heavily mutated. On 26th November, 2021, the World Health Organization announced that the new variant is heavily mutated and it is a “matter of concern” and is named Omicron.

Although not much information is available on the new variant, experts say it could cause a sudden hike in some cases. The director general of WHO said “the new variant is yet another reminder of the fact that we might think we are done with the virus but Covid-19  is not done with us.”

What Do We Know About The Omicron Variant So Far?

There is a lot of information about Omicron that we don’t know about the new strain. Researchers are rushing to know as much as possible about the variant including whether it causes severe illness than previous strains, the transmissibility compared to other other variants including Delta. However, the statistics of people getting infected are climbing but the cause is yet to be known if it is due to Omicron or other factors.  

According to a published report by WHO, It is evident that the rate of hospitalization is increasing in South Africa due to people becoming infected but there is no confirmed source as to why these cases are on surge. Moreover, there is no information to suggest symptoms related to the Omicron variant differ from the previous variants. Preliminary data suggests that Omicron is less lethal but more contagious than the former variant, Delta. The ones who got the infection experienced mild symptoms or were asymptomatic but the level of ferocity of Omicron will take time and extensive research before coming up with reliable information. Experts reveal that there is a high chance that people who were previously infected by former variants of Covid-19 may end up getting reinfected more easily with Omicron. Studies are underway that will reveal more information about the heavily mutated virus and will take time before reaching any final conclusions.

Role of Vaccines and Current tests

WHO has strictly advised people to get vaccinated as they are a major source of prevention from Covid-19. Vaccines have worked as lifesaver in this critical time as it has successfully prevented hospitalization rate and death toll to climb up. PCR tests are a widely accepted medium to detect all the strains of Covid-19 including Omicron. However, studies are ongoing to find out whether any other tests will be affected or not. 

What Necessary Precautions One Might Observe?

It is strongly advised that the people must maintain social distance and should adopt it as a norm to avoid getting infected with the new variant. Moreover, use of sanitizer and wearing a mask at all times has a high chance of saving you from the new strain. Prevention is extremely important as it is the key to avoid getting infected. All variants including Delta were dominant and have led millions of people either getting hospitalized or dying. Hence prevention is always better than cure. 

Studies Underway

At the moment, several detailed research and studies are underway to find out more about Omicron highlighting symptoms one might experience, how contagious it can be, severity of the disease and the rate at which vaccines might work against the virus. WHO is constantly monitoring the hospitalized patient date through WHO Covid-19 Clinical Data Platform to study characteristics and patient outcomes. The evaluation of data will lead to clarity as to how Omicron mutation will impact the pattern of the virus. 

Spread of Omicron: Pakistan To Tighten Up the Protocols

The world has been shaken to the core since the start of pandemic by impacting every industry. People got laid off and many businesses crippled while others were striving hard to survive. The world suffered a financial crunch due to the pandemic. To sum up in a nutshell, Covid-19 has been nothing less than a nightmare and changed the way the world used to function. Every industry faced huge losses and is still in recovery mode. The travel and tourism industry suffered greatly as flights were banned, hotels closed, tourist spots were empty and there was hardly any traveling. Every country closed its borders and no inbound or outbound travel was allowed which led to huge losses for the tourism and travel industry. Though, now the world has started to get back to normal but with the latest development in the coronavirus, things are changing again.

In comparison to other territories, Pakistan has been lucky as it has experienced a relatively mild version of coronavirus so far. Although, concerns regarding public health infrastructure remain if the cases start to climb up. The National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) of Pakistan has declared to ban several countries completely and place them in Category C amidst the spread of the new strain. Countries listed under this category are completely banned which indicates that travelling is not encouraged from these nations until any further notice. The list include the following countries:

(1) Croatia (9) South Africa

(2) Hungry (10) Mozambique

(3) Netherlands (11) Lesotho

(4) Ukraine (12) Eswatini

(5) Ireland (13) Botswana 

(6) Slovenia (14) Zimbabwe

(7) Vietnam (15) Namibia

(8) Poland