Greece authorities have announced another 6.602 new cases of COVID-19 being recorded over the past 24 hours. The numbers reflect a trend that seems to be around to stay. The EODY officials also reported 86 more fatalities in the same timeframe from complications of the disease. Meanwhile, world experts are now concerned about a new strain dubbed Omicron.
This new mutation has not, so far, been seen in Greece, but health experts are deeply concerned about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant that showed up first in South Africa. The WHO recognized the new Covid strain, as lineage B.1.1.529, which has now been named Omicron, as a variant of concern. Their greatest fear is that the new strain may have a greater potential to escape prior immunity than other variants. Omicron, B.1.1.529, could be a huge problem. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, had this to say about the new strain:
“This variant has a large number of mutations, and some of these mutations have some worrying characteristics.”
She says this is the most heavily mutated variant of the Coronavirus, thus far, as it has 32 mutations in the spike protein and 50 overall. There are reportedly 10 mutations versus 2 in the Delta variant regarding the receptor binding domain, which is the portion of the virus that makes initial contact with cells. Tulio de Oliveria, the Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response & innovation (CERI), South Africa, Tweeted this about the Omicron:
This new variant is really worrisome at the mutational level. South Africa and Africa will need support (financially, public health, scientific) to control it so it does not spread in the world. Our poor and deprived population can not be in lockdown without financial support. pic.twitter.com/CeJIXudUIA— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) November 25, 2021
Here in Greece, case incidence per hundred thousand residents have gone up by a factor of at least two in the last few weeks even though highly touristic destinations have sunk to almost zero. Now, it seems as if locals are spreading the virus in bigger urban areas. Mykonos, for instance, dropped to less than 20 cases per 100,000 people, from a high above 400 per 100,000 at peak tourism season.
Greece’s Tourism Minister Kikikias was just cited by France 24 and other media saying mandatory Covid boosters for EU travel would be a logical move. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has already proposed mandatory Covid-19 booster vaccinations people over 60 who wish to travel around the European Union. With a vaccination rate that is below the median for Europe, Greece is in a particularly vulnerable situation if Omicron is as contagious as the experts say. In South Africa it became the dominant strain within two weeks of the first cases.