Why is this so troubling?

Experts claim it’s the most dangerous variant and they are worried about the many possible mutations.

The variant — which the World Health Organization has named Omicron — has 32 mutations on the spike protein — the most ever recorded and twice as many as the currently dominant Delta strain. 

Experts are concerned that the new vaccines could be 40% less effective than they were in the best case scenario.

It is due to the fact that so many changes in B.1.1.529 depend on spike protein.

The body recognizes the current vaccines as the original spike in the virus.

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognize the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognize it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

Botswana has approximately 50 variants. More than 30 mutations are on spike protein. The body recognizes the older version of the virus’ spike protein with the current vaccines. The mutations could make spike proteins look different, which may cause the immune system to struggle to identify it and defeat it. Three of its spike mutations, H665Y and N679K (P681H), allow it to enter cells faster. It is also missing NSP6, a membrane protein that was present in older iterations. Experts think this could make the virus more dangerous. Two mutations (R203K, G204R) have been identified in the virus. These two mutations have been found in all known variants and are associated with infectiousness. 

However, because of the different appearance of the spike protein on this new strain, your immune system may not be able to recognize it or fight it.

There are also mutations that can be found in the Delta variant, which allow for it to spread faster.

Experts say they will not be able to determine how infectious this virus is until at least 2 weeks. They also warn that the impact it has on Covid deaths and hospitalizations may take up to 6 weeks. 

Which mutations can the variant be subject to? 

Botswana has over 50 mutations, with more than 30 on the spike protein.

The mutations N679K and P681H are rarely found together and may make the organism more resistant to jabs.

This mutation, together with H655Y may make it more difficult for viruses to enter the cells.

N501Y, a mutation that may increase the transmissibility of the strain, was first seen in Beta and Kent’s Alpha variants.

R203K and G204R are two other possible mutations that could make this virus more dangerous. However, a missing mutation from the NSP6 variant could lead to an increase in its transmission.  

Additionally, it has mutations K417N & E484A similar to South African variants of the ‘Beta’ variety. These made it easier to resist vaccines.

But it also has the N440K, found on Delta, and S477N, on the New York variant — which was linked with a surge of cases in the state in March — that has been linked to antibody escape. 

It also has Q478K and Q496S mutations. However, their significance is still not clear. 

Are you concerned about a different type of problem?

The World Health Organization has classified the virus as a ‘variant of concern’, the label given to the highest-risk strains.

The WHO has concluded that the mutations it is carrying allow for its rapid spread, causing more severe disease and preventing vaccines from being administered.

Is the variant known? 

It has been detected in South Africa (Botswana), Hong Kong, Israel, Israel, and Belgium so far. 

The majority of cases were found in Gauteng in North East South Africa, where Johannesburg is located.

Hong Kong uploaded the initial case to GISAID, an international variant databank. The case was found by someone who traveled from South Africa to find it.

In the UK, no cases of Covid have been reported. However, scientists don’t sequence all positive Covid samples in the UK. Not everyone who gets the virus will be tested.

It is possible that there are people living with this variant in Britain.

What’s the UK doing to combat this variant?

Six countries were added to the red-list by Health Secretary last night, starting at noon on Friday 26 November.

These countries are red-listed: South Africa Botswana Eswatini Lesotho Namibia Zimbabwe and Botswana. All direct flights between these countries and the UK will be banned.

Anyone arriving in England between midday today and 4am on Sunday from these countries — or who has been in the countries in the 10 previous days — must complete a passenger locator form, quarantine at home and should take a PCR test.

Arriving from these countries on Sunday after 4am, anyone must remain in managed quarantine hotels for 10 nights and submit to a Covid testing on the first or second days of their stay.

B.1.1.529 was also classified by the UK Health Security Agency as a Variant Under Investigation. That means it is susceptible to worrying mutations.

If it proves to be more dangerous, more serious or to make medicines and vaccines less effective or more ineffective, experts will conduct an assessment. 

Is this where B.1.1.529 was first discovered?

Hong Kong posted the first case on November 23 to its international variant databank GISAID. This person was travelling from South Africa to obtain the variant.

The UK was the first nation to detect the threat of the virus and alerted others. 

Since then, seventy-eight cases of HIV/AIDS have been reported in South Africa. Two in Hong Kong were also confirmed, as well as three in Botswana.

Today, Israeli health chiefs announced that they had two confirmed cases and one suspected case of B.1.1.529 in Israel. In Belgium, there are currently two cases.

Although experts believe that the strain originated in Botswana and has been sequenced positively, it is not known if the origin of the variant was ever found elsewhere.

Francois Balloux is a University College London geneticist who told MailOnline that the virus probably emerged as a lingering infected patient with immunocompromised, or undiagnosed AIDS.

Patients with weak immune systems can have infections that last for several months. This is because their bodies are unable to combat it. The virus has time to develop mutations to make it more difficult to fight.

Do I get protection if I use a booster to protect me?

Scientists warn that the new strain of Covid could render vaccines 40% less effective.

However, they stated that the mutations make it all the more critical to have a booster jab as soon people can be eligible.

Neutralizing antibodies are produced by vaccines, and they provide the most protection against new viruses. Experts agree that the greater the number of antibodies, the better.

Britain’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: ‘The booster jab was already important before we knew about this variant – but now, it could not be more important.’ 

We will soon learn more about the variant.

It is currently weeks before data on the transmissibility of this new variant and its impact on deaths and hospitalizations are available.

South Africa is the most affected country in South Africa’s cases. The UK offered to help them gather information. They believe that they can learn more about transmissibility within two or three weeks.

They may not know the details of hospitalizations or deaths for at least four to six more weeks.

Is this the name of the variant?

One day after its discovery in Hong Kong, the strain was named scientifically as B.1.1.529.

Alpha, Beta (Delta), Gamma and Delta have so far been officially given a name.

The variant Omicron was named by experts at the World Health Organization (November 26).