NOVOSIBIRSK, November 30. /TASS/. Russian virologist Sergey Netesov, Head of the Laboratory of Bionanotechnology, Microbiology and Virology of Novosibirsk State University (NSU), suggested limiting foreign travel for non-vaccinated Russians in order to prevent the spread of the new Omicron strain of coronavirus in the country. However, he noted that the real danger of the new variant has not yet been understood.
"Israel halted flights with all countries for two weeks. Of course, this is too much, but, in my opinion, taking into account many countries where the Omicron variant appeared, I think this is a necessary measure. What essentially needs to be done is not to let people out of the country without having been vaccinated against the coronavirus and make a record of everyone who enters the country. We just need to let out those who have been vaccinated so that they don’t transport anything here, since they have already transported everything that was possible," Netesov told TASS.
He added that there is serious concern about the emergence of the Omicron strain. However, its real danger has not been assessed yet, since the number of tracked patients is less than a hundred. <...> It’s better to be on the safe side with this new variant, then we’ll worry later that we didn’t prevent this," the source concluded.
The new variant of the coronavirus was registered in South Africa. In the following days, cases of infection with it were registered in many countries, including several EU states. The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant discovered in South Africa as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. This variant has a large number of mutations some of which alarm the WHO. Several changes at once in the spike protein can potentially hinder the neutralization of the pathogen by antibodies which may impact the effectiveness of vaccines.
Additionally, according to preliminary reports, the strain has a heightened ability to spread. Later, the WHO announced that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus can lead to disease outbreaks with the most serious consequences. As a precautionary measure, a number of countries announced a ban on air traffic with South Africa and other southern African states.