A new variant of Covid-19 has emerged and is causing concern around the world given its “incredibly high” number of mutations, with fears rife among experts because it is both highly transmissible and effective at evading the human body’s immune response.
First detected in Botswana, beginning to emerge in South Africa and already detected in Europe, B.1.1529 has been named Omicron by the World Health Organisation after the next available letter of the Greek alphabet.
UK health secretary Sajid Javid has already warned that it might be able to evade currently available vaccines, a further worrying development given that its emergence coincides with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections across Europe in recent weeks, which has prompted countries like Austria and the Netherlands to impose new lockdowns.
Those moves have in turn cast fresh light on the UK’s own consistently high case rate and the complacency among ministers and members of the public towards mask-wearing and observing social distancing.
With winter flu season complicating the situation even further, the new variant could be the final straw that forces prime minister Boris Johnson to change his position and implement new social restrictions or even a fourth lockdown, however reluctant he may be to risk public ire and further hinder the recovery of the British economy.
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