Wuhan strain to Omicron : Where are we headed now?
The ominous-sounding Omicron reported in Hong Kong, Israel, UK, Germany, France and many others is possibly a new SARS-COV-2 lineage which has yet again, sent the world into a tizzy.
This ‘variant of concern’ has forced governments to impose restrictions on travel again, when people were hoping for ‘normalcy’. The UK, US, Canada, Japan among others have banned travel from South Africa while the union health ministry in India has asked states to strictly screen all passengers coming from vulnerable countries.
But after 2 years, 5 variants of concern (VOC) and 2 variants of interest (VOI) the strain with which all this began in Hubei, China is nearly nowhere to be found now.
GISAID or the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data is the world’s largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences. They classify variants into ‘clades’ or “a group of organisms that originate from a common ancestor.” In the beginning, the ‘S’ and ‘L’ clades were prevalent. ‘L’ then split into G & V, and subsequently G split into several others. The Delta variant belongs to the GK clade which is now dominant in almost every continent.
In the last two years, these strains have had quite a journey:
Early 2020 - The L &S clades are still in circulation and takes the longest to phase out of Asia. Slowly, the G clade begins taking over Asia but does so rapidly in North America, South America, Africa and Oceania.
January 2021 - L&S clade’s global presence reduces to 1.2% and 2.1% respectively
November 2021 - Omicron first reported from South Africa. Cases increase by 4 times in the country.
Even though there is yet to be any consensus whether the new variant can evade the human body’s immune system, the COVID-19 vaccines till now have shown that they can surely prevent disease and death against other variants. Until more information is revealed about the new and supposedly more ‘dangerous’ variant, it is best to mask up and continue maintaining COVID-19 protocols like we have over the past two years.
We still don't know whether the new variant can evade the human body’s immune system, but the COVID-19 vaccines have till now shown that they can surely prevent disease and death against other variants.