Which Countries Have Detected Cases of 'Alarming' New Omicron COVID Variant?

Upon the discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, some countries have already reported cases. Trackers have now been made of the new variant's path, confirming that 87 cases have already been recorded.

This COVID variant was first recorded in Botswana, where six cases have already been reported. Three of those cases have been sequenced and are awaiting results. The variant appeared to spread quickly to neighboring South Africa. BNO News reported that 77 cases have been identified, resulting in canceled flights out of the country.

These are not the only countries to have seen cases of Omicron pop up. Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection reported that at least two cases had been attributed to the new variant through genome sequencing. The Health Ministry of Israel also released a statement stating that one case of Omicron was found in the country, with two more potentially attributed to the variant. Belgium universities UZ Leuven and KU Leuven have also confirmed that one case of Omicron was found during testing.

In total, five countries have currently recorded cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Tambo International Airport
A slew of nations moved to stop air travel from southern Africa on Friday in reaction to news of a new, potentially more transmissible COVID-19 variant that has been detected in South Africa. People line up to get on the Air France flight to Paris at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa on November 26. AP Photo/Jerome Delay

Omicron could bring significant trouble to countries worldwide. GISAID, a global open-source virus tracker, said that the variant "comprises [of] several [spike amino acid chages] that were previously known to affect receptor binding and antibody escape." The Guardian elaborated on this, saying that Omicron has 32 potential mutations in the spike protein. In a statement, the World Health Organization has called it a variant of concern.

"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning," the statement said. "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs."

WHO also reported that this variant could be more transmissible, with cases appearing "to be increasing" across South Africa's provinces. The last variant to be labeled as a variant of concern was the Delta variant, which is now the most prevalent coronavirus in the United States. However, Omicron could be significantly more dangerous. Federation of American Scientists senior fellow Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding said that Omicron could be up to 500 percent more infectious than Delta.

Other countries are now scrambling to protect their citizens from this strain through travel restrictions. The United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Singapore and Japan have already announced plans to restrict or ban travel to and from South Africa and its surrounding countries.

Newsweek reached out to the CDC for comment.

WHO Logo
The World Health Organization labeled the Omicron variant a variant of concern. A photo taken on February 24, 2020 shows the logo of the WHO at their headquarters in Geneva. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images