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    Omicron sweeps across 57 countries: WHO

    HealthCOVID-19Omicron sweeps across 57 countries: WHO
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    Omicron sweeps across 57 countries: WHO

    The past week saw a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Americas and the South-East Asia Region, including India. However the number of new weekly deaths continued to increase, with the highest number of new deaths being reported from the US and India.

    Globally, during the week of 24 to 30 January 2022, the number of new COVID-19 cases remained similar to the number reported during the previous week, while the number of new deaths increased by 9 per cent, said the World Health Organisation in its weekly COVID-19 reports update.

    Over 22 million new cases and over 59,000 new deaths were reported across the six WHO regions, the global body said. As of 30 January 2022, over 370 million confirmed cases and over 5.6 million deaths have been reported globally. The increase in the number of new cases came from the Western Pacific region (37 per cent), the Eastern Mediterranean region (24 per cent) and the European region (7 per cent). The week also saw a decrease of 20 per cent in the Americas and a decrease of 8 per cent in South-East Asia Region (that includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, besides other countries of South East Asia).

    Sady, the number of new weekly deaths continued to increase in the South-East Asia region (41 per cent) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region and the Americas (16%).

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    The highest number of new deaths due to COVID-19 during the week were reported from the US (13,558 new deaths or an increase of five per cent), India (4682 new deaths or an increase of 40 per cent), the Russian Federation (with 4,616 new deaths; similar to the previous week), Brazil (reporting 3321 new deaths accounting for an 88 per cent increase) and Italy (with 2618 new deaths, or a seven per cent increase).

    Geographic spread and prevalence of variants of concern

    According to WHO, the current global epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 is characterized by the continued rapid global spread of the Omicron variant. All other variants, including variants of concerns like including the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants and the variants of interest (Lambda and Mu) continue to decline in all six WHO regions, according to WHO experts.

    But there is still deep concern about the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. “Among the 433,223 sequences uploaded to GISAID with specimens collected in the last 30 days, 403,991 (93.3 per cent) were Omicron (and), 29,004 (6.7 per cent) were Delta,” the organisation says

    Among the 433,223 sequences uploaded to GISAID with specimens collected in the last 30 days, 403 991 (93.3 per cent) were Omicron and 29,004 (6.7 per cent) were Delta. The remaining 10 were from the Alpha, Beta, Gama, Mu and Lambda.

    The Omicron variant

    The Omicron variant-defining constellation of mutations accounts for 96.4 per cent of sequences submitted to the the global initiative on sharing all influenza data (GISAID) as of 31 January 2022, according to WHO. Designated sequences have been submitted to GISAID from 57 countries to date, the WhO says.

    According to the WHO update, several Omicron lineages have been identified since the designation of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) as a variant of concern on 26 November 2021. All of these variants are being monitored by WHO under the umbrella of ‘Omicron’.

    “The common origin of these lineages has not yet been elucidated and it is not clear to date how and where the Omicron parental variant or the descendent lineages originated and further evolved,” WHO’s update says.

    In the meanwhile, GISAID says that Omicron is present in all seven continents. The unique mix of spike amino acid changes in Omicron is of interest as it comprises several that were previously identified to affect receptor binding and antibody escape,” GSAID says, adding, “As with all low frequency variants with potentially relevant changes, these need to be monitored closely to study if they spread more widely as a consequence of immune escape, or altered receptor interactions.”

    The timely detection of Omicron variants was made possible by researchers from Botswana, Hong Kong, South Africa who shared the first genomes of the variant.

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