What you should know about the new Omikron variant [Developing Corona situation]

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A new Corona variant worries politicians and experts. The mutant has now also lost in Germany – and that in the middle of the fourth wave. Little is still known about the Omikron corona variant. However, what researcher and scientists know has everyone alarmed.

The new Omikron variant is worrying doctors and politicians worldwide. This new corona variant is more contagious and has already been detected in Germany. The first cases were confirmed on Saturday evening when 2 people arrived at the Munich airport. How dangerous do experts rate the variant? And what does that mean for vaccination?

Omikron variant

What is the omicron variant? What is known about the variant?

The omicron variant (B.1.1.529), which was first detected in southern Africa, could, according to South African scientists, be even more contagious than the currently rampant delta variant because of the unusually high number of mutations. It could also make the vaccines less effective. The variant has already been proven in several countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has already classified Omikron as “worrying”. The EU health authority ECDC also considers the risk of spread in the EU to be “high to very high”. A first case was found in Belgium. However, it is still unclear what the exact effects of the variant will be. According to a WHO spokesman, it will be “a few weeks” before scientists can understand the consequences.

How common is the variant in Germany?

The first two cases in Germany were confirmed in Munich on Saturday evening. The two travelers arrived on November 24 on a flight from South Africa, said Bavaria Health Minister Klaus Holetschek. On Saturday morning, Hesse’s Minister of Social Affairs Kai Klose (Greens) announced a suspected Omikron case in Germany. In the case of a returnee from South Africa, several mutations typical for this variant were found. However, confirmation is still pending here. According to the Ministry in Wiesbaden, the person was fully vaccinated.

Does the Omikron variant have any effects on the vaccination?

There are concerns that the vaccinations might be less effective against the new variant. However, experts emphasize that vaccination remains the best option even with Omikron. “All people who get vaccinated do not start from scratch when they are infected with a new variant,” said Lothar Wieler , President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). In any case, you already have a certain level of vaccination protection, which is crucial to know.

Charite immunologist Leif Erik Sander was also optimistic that the previous corona vaccines would also work against the Omikron variant. It is true that this cannot be said conclusively because it still has to be researched. But he is optimistic that you don’t have to start “from scratch” with this variant. The level of immunity can generally be increased again very strongly through the booster vaccinations – which also helps against variants.

What are experts in Germany asking for?

Omikron variant

The researchers at the Leopoldina Science Academy spoke out in favor of extensive contact restrictions – including those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered.

New virus variants make quick and consistent action even more urgent, according to the committee that also advises the government. “Due to the decreasing immunity, these measures would have to apply temporarily to vaccinated and convalescent people who have to receive a booster vaccination during this time.”

According to the researchers, the vaccination campaign must be massively intensified and mandatory vaccination must be introduced in stages. A quickly introduced job-related compulsory vaccination for doctors, nurses and medical professionals is important.

What are politicians asking for?

Omikron variant

The Leopoldina researchers also received support from politicians for their demands. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) described the recommendation for immediate contact restrictions also for corona-vaccinated people as “a warning and wake-up call to Berlin”. “The situation is more serious than most people think,” said Söder. “We should therefore take the information from the Leopoldina very seriously and advise them quickly,” he said. His Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) spoke out in favor of a quick federal-state meeting at which the recommendations should be discussed.

The Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU) is also pushing for a quick Prime Minister’s Conference. One is again before a “zero hour in the fight against the pandemic,” he said. Nationwide containment measures are needed quickly, and bottlenecks in the provision of vaccines must be removed with all might, he said. “You need an Omikron MPK with a managing and a new federal government – every day counts,” continues Hans.

Berlin’s Senator for Health Dilek Kalayci (SPD) considers a new lockdown to be necessary. “I call on the federal government to use a federal emergency brake,” said the executive senator of the “Berliner Morgenpost”. At the same time, she asked people in Berlin to avoid major events, especially indoors, in order to reduce the risk of infection.

What measures have already been taken?

Because of the variant, the federal government is classifying South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi and Lesotho as virus variant areas from Sunday, midnight, as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Friday evening.

Airlines are essentially only allowed to carry German citizens or people living in Germany from there to Germany. A two-week quarantine obligation applies to those entering the country – including those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered.

The German Lufthansa is maintaining the flight connections to South Africa for the time being, as a spokesman confirmed on request. “The flight plan will be maintained, the flights will take place” – of course, the applicable requirements would be complied with.

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