December 6, 2021
How To Prevent Omicron?
Regarding the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the National Health Commission (NHC) organized experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to answer relevant questions:
I.When was Omicron discovered?
On November 9, 2021, samples of B.1.1.529 variant were detected for the first time in South Africa; in just 2 weeks' time, this variant became the dominant cause of COVID-19 infections in the South African province of Gauteng. As of November 28, South Africa, Israel, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, and other countries have reported cases of this variant. Aside from Hong Kong, provinces and cities in China have not yet reported Omicron cases. Note: Omicron was first discovered and reported in South Africa, but it does not mean that it evolved and formed in South Africa. The place of discovery is not necessarily the place of origin.
II.What are the possible reasons for the surge of Omicron?
After infection with COVID-19, immune-deficient patients experienced an evolution over time and accumulated a large number of variants and spread over occasionally.
Infections of COVID-19 were then spread by chance to animal groups, and the highly adaptable virus evolved in the process of transmission to animals. The mutation rate was higher than that of human beings, and then the mutation spread back to humans.
The variant has spread over the places where COVID-19 genome monitoring system doesn't work well for a long time. Due to the lack of monitoring ability, the evolution of the intermediate generation virus hasn't been discovered in time.
III. Is Omicron highly transmissible?
Omicron has in common several key mutations of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, including the mutations of the important amino acid of spike protein and the mutations that increased cell receptor affinity and virus replication ability.
IV.Is Omicron prevented by vaccines?
Studies have shown that if COVID-19's S-gene has a K417N, E484A, or N501Y mutation, it indicates that the strain of COVID has enhanced ability to infect people despite vaccination. 84A+N501Y”. Omicron presents a triple mutation, combining K417N+E484A+N501Y, making it highly contagious even among vaccinated people ,It is very likely that Omicron contains other mutations that may reduce the neutralizing activity of monoclonal antibodies. ,Note: The combinations of variants may reduce the protective efficacy of some antibody drugs against Omicron, and the efficacy of existing vaccines needs further monitoring and research.
V.Can the PCR reagents currently used in China detect Omicron?
Variants do not affect the sensitivity and specificity of the common PCR reagents used in China. PCR reagents that aim to detect the S-gene may not be able to effectively detect the S-gene of Omicron.
VI. What relevant measures have been taken so far?
In view of the rapid spread of Omicron in South Africa, many countries and regions, including the US, the UK, the EU, Russia, Israel, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, have restricted the entry of travelers from South Africa.
VII. What are China's countermeasures?
China's prevention and control strategy focuses on blocking the import of external cases and the outbreak of internal ones. This will be adopted against Omicron too.
The Institute of Viral Diseases of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has adopted a specific PCR method for Omicron and continues to carry out viral genome monitoring for possible imported cases.
The above measures will facilitate timely detection of Omicron outbreaks.
VIII.What are the recommendations from WHO?
Countries should continue to monitor, report, and study the variant, and implement effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall. The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus are to keep a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others, wear a well-fitting mask, open windows to improve ventilation, keep hands clean, cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue, get vaccinated when possible, and avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces. Prevention is always the key. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.
IX. Advices for the public
1.Wearing a face mask is still an effective way of preventing virus transmission, including that of Omicron.
2. Continue to monitor your personal health. When having symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, the patient should monitor their temperature and go to the hospital.