Latest News on the Omicron Variant

While millions of Americans were enjoying Thanksgiving weekend with loved ones, health officials were sounding the alarm on a “heavily mutated” coronavirus variant emerging in South Africa.

The World Health Organization announced on Friday it had designated the new strain a “variant of concern” and named it Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. 

Not much is yet known about the new variant but experts say it could take hold, causing infections to surge.

On Monday, health officials in Portugal discovered 13 cases of Omicron among members of a renowned soccer club, Belenenses. One of the people who had tested positive had just returned from a trip to South Africa. South Africa itself has reported 77 cases as of November 29th, 2021. 

Canada has also seen the variant with recent cases surfacing in Ontario, according to Canada’s health minister. Two citizens who had recently traveled to Nigeria tested positive. 

Travelers to Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Australia, and Israel have all also tested positive for the variation.

Although efforts are being made to contain the virus, it has already been introduced to our continent, which worries many people. Health officials are urging people to remain masked in public spaces and get vaccinated, as they are anticipating a spike in Omicron cases in the near future. 

However, Omicron is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic” according to President Joe Biden in a media briefing this past Monday.

This map depicts the area and amount of cases of the Omicron variant. Sourced from Ainhoa Maqueda at the Columbia Missourian.