The World Health Organization released on Monday morning an update on what we know and don’t know about Omicron.
It said that scientists are urgently trying to learn more about the B.1.1.529 strain of coronavirus which has already spurred international travel bans.
It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta, according to WHO.
“Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 in the spike, some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility. However, there are still considerable uncertainties,” the update said
“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 Omicron is assessed as very high,” it added.
Earlier on Friday, 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).
It had a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggested an increased reinfection risk, the WHO said.
It was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.
A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa.