WHO classifies renamed COVID-19 strain, Omicron, ‘variant of concern’

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The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 to be a variant of concern, renaming it Omicron.

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“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, named Omicron,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

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Earlier on Friday, WHO said it would take “a few weeks” for researchers to understand the impact of the new C0VID-19 variant B.1.1.529 detected in South Africa.

“Researchers are working to understand more about the mutations and what they potentially mean for how transmissible or virulent this variant is,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters, as WHO experts began a virtual meeting to determine whether B.1.1.529 should be classified as a variant of interest or of concern.

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