Seven Important Points About Omicron, The Latest Mutant Variant - Dr. Chandima Jeewandara

November 29, 2021

Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, the head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology at the Medical Faculty of the Sri Jayewardenepura University today laid out the currently available information about Omicron — the latest mutant variant of COVID19.

On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).

Dr. Jeewandara said as follows,

"Current knowledge about Omicron (28 November 2021 - Source WHO) 1. Transmissibility: It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta.

2. The severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.

3. Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern.

4. Effectiveness of vaccines: Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating virus, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. (More research underway)

5. Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to assess any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.

6. Effectiveness of current treatments: Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron.

7. Actions are taken by Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit: Enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases"