Of the two persons detected with the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Bengaluru, India, one had no travel history. The other has flown out. This in itself indicates quite a few things. Whatever explanation is offered for someone being able to just leave the country even as genome sequencing of his sample is still awaited, it does show up a dangerously casual approach. The conjecture about the second person, a doctor with no travel record, is that he may have picked it from the conference he attended at a city hotel where delegates from abroad too were present. Stopping flights from certain designated countries like South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Netherlands and Belgium will be of little consequence now. Omicron—so named so as to avoid it being called Nu or Xi for obvious reasons—has arrived and is spreading.
The new mutated variant of concern, designated B.1.1.529 by WHO on November 26, has an unusual number of mutations. Data from South Africa, which has done an excellent job of tracking and identification, is that it spreads quietly. Whether faster or more lethally than the earlier villain, Delta, is yet to be fully established. However, what is easier done is being unerringly done: blame and isolate the African nations not just for warning the world against the new strain, but also point fingers at some unknown immuno-deficient—probably HIV-infected—African for the latest mutation. China may not have come clean on Covid-19 yet. We may not ever know where the original SARS-CoV-2 strain came from, a lab in Wuhan or an intermediary animal. But from there to Omicron, what has not changed is the worst in us. What else? Yes, oh, mask up, avoid crowds and human proximity, wash hands. And, yes, vaccinate. Omicron or not, that may be the only hope to avoid another debilitating wave.