The World Health Organization on Friday, 26 November, named the recently detected B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 'Omicron,' after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet.
The variant, first reported in South Africa, has been declared a "variant of concern" by the WHO.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology... the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern (VOC), named Omicron."The World Health Organization
The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021.
'Variant Has a Large Number of Mutations,' WHO Warns
The United Nations' health body has warned that the variant has a large number of mutations.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa," the WHO said in a statement on Friday.
The health body has recommended that countries enhance their surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand the circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
New COVID Variant a 'Developing Incident': MEA
The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday said that the new COVID variant was "a developing incident."
"As regards the issue of the South African variant, this is a developing incident. We just saw a report of and briefing by WHO. I don't have any immediate information on the steps we are taking. It is an issue more for our health authorities. This is a very developing story," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.