A further case of Omicron variant confirmed
Following the first 2 confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variant known as B.1.1.529 on 27 November, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has identified one further case of COVID-19 with mutations consistent with B.1.1.529 in the UK.
The individual tested positive after travel to the UK and is linked to travel to Southern Africa. The individual is no longer in the UK, but UKHSA is carrying out targeted testing at locations where the positive case visited when they were likely to have been infectious. While in the UK, the individual was in Westminster, London.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said:
Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread. It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focussed contact tracing.
We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.
It’s critical that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.
Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second or booster jab without delay. Wear a mask in crowded places, including public transport and shops, to ensure we all help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.
UKHSA designated variant B.1.1.529 as a variant under investigation (VUI) on Thursday 25 November. It was designated a variant of concern (VOC) on Saturday 27 November.
The B.1.1.529 variant includes a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. These are potentially biologically significant mutations which may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.
UKHSA, in partnership with scientific bodies across the globe, is constantly monitoring the status of SARS-CoV-2 variants as they emerge and develop worldwide. We are particularly grateful to health protection specialists and the government of South Africa for early sharing of local information on the omicron variant in an exemplary way to support global health security.
UKHSA is acting to get scientific information available as quickly as possible in order to inform the right balance of interventions to prevent transmission and protect lives. This will include analysing live samples of the new variant in our laboratories to investigate properties such as response to current vaccines.
As viruses mutate often and at random, it is not unusual for small numbers of cases to arise featuring new sets of mutations. Any variants showing evidence of spread are rapidly assessed.