Omicron will soon replace Delta as the dominant global variant of COVID-19, experts say

Experts in Singapore where 170 new Omicron Cases were reported on Wednesday that warned that the new and supposedly more contagious variant will supersede delta in the next few weeks to months.

While delta is still the most common variant on every continent except Africa, Omicron is spreading very quickly, said Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, Executive Director of the Bioinformatics Institute of the State Agency for Science, Technology and Research here.

Of the genome submissions sent to Munich-based Gisaid, a data science initiative that provides the shared genome platform for Covid, the Omicron strain made between 7 and 27 percent of the last month through Tuesday new submissions. The numbers refer to all continents except Africa.

“Current data suggests that Delta will decline over time compared to Omicron,” said The Straits Times, quoting Dr. Maurer-Stroh, who is part of the global team that oversees Gisaid.

The new variant was first discovered in South Africa on November 11th, then in Botswana and Hong Kong, before spreading to more than 110 countries as it did last weekend.

Omicron is already dominant in Australia, India, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom, said Professor Dale Fisher, senior advisor in the Infectious Diseases Division of the National University Hospital.

“We are seeing a global transition from Delta to Omicron because the virus is fitter with higher transmittability and has a reproductive advantage,” noted Prof. Fisher.

He added a caveat, however, that reports on Omicron rates may be biased as some countries do little gene sequencing and those who do may be looking for a deletion in a particular spike gene to identify Omicron rather than doing full genome sequencing.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on its website that as of December 24th, Covid-19 cases that test positive for the so-called S-gene target failure will be categorized as Omicron.

The S gene codes for the virus’ spike protein.

Based on local experience, if a person tests positive for the failure of the S-gene target, the person is very likely to have the Omicron variant, the MoH said, noting that this practice is the same as in other countries.

Fisher said that most of the experts in the field believe that Omicron will replace Delta as the dominant variety.

A South African study suggested that Delta may be evicted because infection with the new variant increases immunity to the older one, Reuters reported Tuesday.

While the Delta variant has 13 mutations with nine on the Spike protein, Omicron has around 50 mutations that have never been seen together before, and 32 of those are on the Spike protein.

Because of its mutations, the Delta variant binds to human cell receptors more effectively, making it more infectious, Fisher said.

However, the Omicron variant has made health officials more concerned because the virus is even “stickier” due to its additional mutations, he added.

The rise and fall of new variants over time follows the laws of nature and the survival of the fittest, noted Fisher.

Dr. Maurer-Stroh said the environment in which two variants compete will also help determine which is more successful.

“As immunity increases in the population from both vaccinations and natural infections, the severity decreases, but even a slightly better escape from the prevailing immune response can give one variant an added advantage over another,” he said.

“We see that every year with different flu variants.” Dr. Maurer-Stroh said: “Because of the great benefits of vaccination, including booster vaccination, we are seeing less severe cases.”

As Omicron and Delta continue to vie for supremacy, some have wondered if it would be possible to contract both tribes at the same time.

“It is possible, but seldom. And very quickly only one variant would be the dominant infection in the body, ”adds Dr. Mason straw.

International evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is likely more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant.

In the meantime, domestic and foreign travelers entering Singapore are each allowed to bring a maximum of 20 Covid self-test kits as long as they are approved for use in the country from which the traveler is arriving, but are not authorized to use them here .

This has been the case since December 23, the health authority (HSA) told the Straits Times.

The HSA said it has seen an increase in personal imports of Covid self-test kits into Singapore since October.

It had banned the importation of some of these test kits, the quality or effectiveness of which had not been assessed, as they could be resold locally.

But with the borders reopening, the HSA said it recognized the need for travelers to bring their own self-test kits to meet the necessary testing requirements here.

The HSA has authorized 11 Covid-19 self-test kits for use in Singapore.

However, the population is reminded that the import of self-test kits by parcel post is still not allowed.

Further delivery of self-test kits to wholesalers is also not permitted and requires licenses and permits from HSA. Those who violate this can face up to two years’ imprisonment and / or fines of up to SGD 50,000 if convicted, the report said.

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