Most viruses tend to undergo multiple mutations every year, and each mutation to the virus, resulting in a new variant, can alter how it behaves and how human beings react to it. The flu virus, for example, has undergone hundreds of mutations since the flu pandemic of last century. COVID-19 is no different. The variant of the virus we’re living with today is very different to the variant that spread across Europe in 2020.
In this regard, Omicron is also very different.
According to South African Dr Angelique Coetzee, the Omicron variant results in different symptoms to previous variants like Delta, currently the dominant form of Covid in the UK.
The new symptoms include:
• Intense fatigue
• Very high heart rate
• Sore throat
This contrasts to the symptoms we most associate with COVID-19, a loss of taste, loss of smell and difficulty breathing.
Dr Coetzee has said these symptoms are no longer present in the Omicron variant, although it does share symptoms with Delta and other forms of COVID-19 such as muscle aches and a dry cough.
The main issue with Omicron remains the fact that it’s more transmissible and may be able to evade the protection given to us by vaccines.
However, it won’t be for another two weeks that scientists, and subsequently, the government, has a complete understanding on the impact of the Omicron Variant and how it will affect the nation in the build up to Christmas.
The Government, in reaction to the uncertainty around Omicron, is being cautious and reintroducing some restrictions.
The number of the countries on the UK’s red list has also gone up with South Africa, Lesotho Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zambia and Malawi, all on the list.
As the virus spreads through Europe there is a possibility that this list will grow, and further restrictions may be put in place.
So far, a low number of cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the UK and in mainland European countries such as Holland and Germany.
For now, until we have a complete picture of how effective Omicron is at infecting others, how it will affect the R-number and if it can evade current vaccines, we cannot be certain if it will impact how we celebrate Christmas this year.