Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Why new variant might be a good thing

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Why new variant might be a good thing

Experts have said the emergence of Omicron could be a good thing for public health.

The possibly more infectious but less virulent variant of coronavirus has researchers daring to hope it is the strain that drops the severity of the illness.

Early indications from South Africa, where Omicron is about to replace Delta as the dominant strain, show the latest mutation spreads faster but is less severe.

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Why new variant might be a good thing

People wear face masks on a bus in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo / AP

Victoria’s Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said there is evidence that gives cause for optimism.

“There is a possibility that we are seeing a more infectious and less virulent version of the virus, which would be one of those steps along a happier route to living with the virus,” she told Nine Newspapers.

“We’ve got as many signals that it might as OK as we’ve got signals that it might be a bit of a worry.”

Similarly, other viruses have gone through this process where they mutate and become less potent. This is what happened to the H1N1 influenza virus – which may explain the origins of the common cold.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Nick Coatsworth said while there were good early signs, extensive research was still required.

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Why new variant might be a good thing

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus walk through central Barcelona, Spain. Photo / AP

“It is encouraging preliminary news (about the less severe symptoms in vaccinated patients). The doctor who discovered this, found this because she noted a more mild type of Covid-19 (in younger, vaccinated people). That is telling in itself,” he told Sunrise.

“I think it is positive early news but there is a lot more we need to know about the variant.”

Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly had previously said it would be his number one Christmas present if a less severe strain of Covid spread among the community.

His comments come as officials await for the variant to appear outside of hotel quarantine.

“The most important thing is that when we implement these measures quickly, we are equally quick to remove them if we don't need them”

Former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr @Nick_Coatsworth on Australia's response to the Omicron COVID variant. pic.twitter.com/fp5VhOj9Tm

— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) November 29, 2021

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has made the frank declaration that the Omicron variant may already be in the Australian community.

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Why new variant might be a good thing

“We have to expect Omicron may well already be here,” Hazzard told reporters on Sunday after several recent arrivals from southern African tested positive to Covid-19.

“What we do know is that it’s going to be hard to ascertain just how many people are here who have been in those African nations.”

The Omicron variant has more than 30 mutations on its spike protein which is more than double the amount carried by Delta, making it a particular concern for scientists.

Such a significant change has raised doubt antibodies created from previous Covid infections or vaccination would be enough to protect the person from becoming ill.

Scientists, while still feverishly trying to learn more about the new variant, so far have predicted Omicron will be more likely to infect or reinfect people who have immunity to previous variants.

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