Japan has confirmed the first case of the new variant “Omicron”, Kyodo News Agency reported, citing government sources.
The new Omicron version, which was discovered initially in South Africa, has heightened global anxieties because it is thought to be more deadly than the delta variant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated it as a ‘variant of concern’ on Friday.
The new South African strain has been designated as a source of concern by the WHO because it has a high number of mutations (32), potentially making it more transmissible and deadly. The WHO has given it the name Omicron, which is the Greek alphabet’s 15th letter.
Following news of the new variant, the US, the EU, Canada, Israel, Australia, and other countries have imposed travel restrictions on many southern African countries due to health concerns.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the omicron Covid variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, warning that surges of Covid infections caused by the variant of concern could have “severe consequences” for some areas.
“Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said in its risk assessment on Monday within a technical brief to its 194 member states.
“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place. The overall global risk related to the new VOC [variant of concern] Omicron is assessed as very high,” the U.N. health agency said.
The WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529, which was first spotted in South Africa, as a “variant of concern” last Friday.
It said in its report on Monday that it is “a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations … some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”