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  • This is what the virus causing COVID-19 looked like when it was first detected in Wuhan, China.


  • Now, scientists have identified a new variant called Omicron; it has 30 mutations affecting these spike proteins, which the virus uses to attach itself to human cells to infect them.


  • - This is a clarion call, as fas as I'm concerned. - Yeah.

    これはクラリオンコールです。 そうですね。

  • It does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.


  • Scientists in South Africa first sounded the alarm over the variant.


  • As people start to move even more over the next few weeks, this will be all over.


  • It has been detected in a growing number of locations around the world, prompting governments including the US to restrict travel from Southern Africa and Israel to ban entry to all foreign national.


  • It's too early to know how concerned we should be about this, but there are enough signals that this is something that's important that needs to be investigated.


  • The variant was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.


  • The agency said there could be an increased risk of COVID-19 reinfection with Omicron compared to other variants, and authorities say it could be more transmissible.


  • A number of cases have been linked to South Africa, where scientists believe it could have caused a spike in infections.


  • The number of infections detected per day rose sharply to nearly 3,000 cases on Sunday from roughly 200 cases just two weeks earlier.


  • This new variant has more than 50 mutations, more than 30 of them, they are in the spike protein, which is the part through which the virus latches onto the human cell, but there's a lot of mutations that we've never seen.


  • There's a bunch that, in previous variants, have shown to make the variant either more contagious or allow it to evade parts of the immune response that was triggered by a vaccine or by a past infection.


  • The Omicron variant has twice as many mutations as the Delta variant, a highly contagious strain that was identified in India, October of last year and became the dominant form of the virus around the world.


  • Now, scientists are racing to investigate how widespread the Omicron variant could be.


  • It's hard to know exactly how much it spread.


  • Most cases don't get diagnosed and an even fewer number gets sequence.


  • So, whatever number of cases are officially reported or whatever number of countries that have officially reported cases, that is likely an underestimate with an efficiently spreading respiratory virus.


  • So I suspect you'll find more cases in more countries.


  • Pfizer, Moderna, and other vaccine makers have said they have plans in place to adapt their vaccines following the emergence of Omicron.


  • BIONTECH, which developed one of the most commonly-used COVID-19 vaccines together with Pfizer, said they expect to be able to tweak their vaccine in around 100 days if needed.


  • When it comes to variants, when they possess certain mutations that have already been associated with certain changes in the behavior of the virus,


  • like the ability to evade vaccines or monoclonal antibodies or prior immunity or the ability to transmit more efficiently.

  • Those have to be taken seriously and have to be investigated because it may change how we need to respond to or think about the virus and the trajectory of the pandemic.


  • Scientists have also warned for months that the risk of new variants is higher where vaccination rates are lower, especially in areas with people who are immunocompromised.


  • In South Africa, only about one-fourth of the population is fully vaccinated; it's nearly 60% in the US.


  • This, I think, is not a coincidence that it arose or was detected in a place with a low vaccination level,


  • which tells us that the more vaccination we get into people, the higher the vaccination numbers are, the more resilient we're going to be to variants like this.

This is what the virus causing COVID-19 looked like when it was first detected in Wuhan, China.


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