Black Friday/ B.1.1.529

Hopefully it turns out that Black Friday meant the purveyors of products-at-a-discount ended up in the black, and not that the B.1.1.529 variant (Omicron) had started a really bad turn in the pandemic. (We will know in about two weeks if this ‘variant of concern’ can evade the antibodies produced by the current vaccines*).

Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the South African Medical Association, says in The Guardian newspaper: ‘It’s all speculation at this stage. It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild’.

*From the New York Times: The B.1.1.529 variant has a “very unusual constellation of mutations,” with more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, Mr. de Oliveira (director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, in South Africa) said. The spike protein is the chief target of antibodies that the immune system produces to fight a coronavirus infection. So many mutations raised concerns that Omicron’s spike might be able to evade antibodies produced by either a previous infection or a vaccine.

Passengers travelling from South Africa line up to be tested for Covid-19, tested after being held on the tarmac at Schiphol Airport, Netherlands for hours on November 26, 2021. About 600 passengers arrived on Friday on two KLM flights. After initial testing, Dutch authorities estimated that some 85 people may be infected. Those that test positive will have to quarantine in hotels near the airport, and their samples will be tested to see if it’s the omicron variant.
Update Sat 11/27: Per the BBC, 61 of these 600 travelers tested positive for Covid-19. (Not yet known if any is the Omicron variant). 61 sounds like a lot to me. Surely almost all of these travelers have been vaccinated. Was the testing (in South Africa) three days before traveling not very reliable? Did the travelers get infected on the airplane? 
[Picture obtained from social media by REUTERS]

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