MOSCOW, December 4. /TASS/. The emergence of the omicron strain of the novel coronavirus may be the first indication that the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its end, said Vladimir Nikoforov, the chief specialist in infectious diseases of the Russian Federal Medical Biological Agency and holder of chair in infectious diseases of the Pirogov Medical University.
"The new strain that originated somewhere in South Africa, which <…> is more contagious, but, on the other hand, there is data indicating that it causes <…> less severe symptoms. In other words, it does not cause serious lung damage. And I think that it might be the beginning of this nightmare’s end. And, probably, I’d like to think of it as of a first sign that the virus has started to recede," he told the Govorit Moskva radio station.
According to Nikiforov, the new strain may cause the virus to become an ordinary seasonal respiratory infection.
On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated B.1.1.529 as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. It also said that the new variant has "a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." According to experts, several mutations in the virus’ S-protein are potentially capable of hampering the neutralization of the pathogen by antibodies and hence reduce the efficacy of the current vaccines. The new variant potentially may also be more transmittable than other variants. To date, the Omicron strain has been registered in almost 30 countries worldwide. The largest number of people infected with the new COVID-19 variant is now in South Africa.