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Omicron Risks and Fears
By E. Kalair, N. Abas, N. Khan, Comsats, 1/12/21
Dec 1, 2021 - 3:21:19 PM

Regenerative waves of coronavirus variants pose risk and fears to world community. CDC says all adults will have to get a booster? [Celina 2021]. Will the booster shot protect against omicron? [Herb 2021]. Moderna and Pfizer says if adults (>18) have taken second doze six months ago then they are eligible for booster shot [Clifford 2021]. Is climate change behind COVID-19 spillover? [Robert 2021].

 

 

COVID-19 variant omicron (B.1.1.529) has minimum 30 mutations in the spike protein and 10 mutations in the ACE2 receptor. Omicron was originally discovered in Botswana in four cases among fully vaccinated people which caused worry the variant can evade the COVID-19 vaccines [Kai 2021].

 

Virologists claim omicron had evolved in September or October 2021 which might have already spread worldwide. One expert says doomsday COVID-19 variant is highly transmissible whilst others claim it shows mild symptoms and spreads slowly [Herb 2021].

 

Zoonotic viruses have been jumping from animals to humans throughout history. Period between these events is shortening over time. History shows zoonotic viruses evolve in Asia, Middle East and Africa. Rapid population growth, urbanization, deforestation and climate change seem to be drivers. Probability of human interaction with infected animals is higher in Asia [Suresh 2021].

 

Cattle, chicken and pigs have close contact with humans in Asia and Africa. Bats bite cattle and pigs at night and there is limited housing for these animals in summer. Live animal markets in China and Africa open doors to fast human interactions with infected animals. Bush meat hunting and open butchering is in fact changing our ecosystems. Bush meat hunting increases chances of zoonotic spillover.

 

Pesticides, medicines and deforestation practices are killing predators and increasing viruses carrying species attack on human settlements. Climate change is also mobilizing animal species. Vultures have almost disappeared in subcontinent. Decline in wildlife is increasing rodents borne diseases in Africa [Young 2014]. High population countries have higher chances of zoonotic spillover.

 

Seven coronaviruses -  HCoV-229E (alpha), HCoV-NL63 (alpha), HCoV-OC43 (beta), HCoV-HKU1 (beta), MERS-CoV (beta), SARS-CoV (beta) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) – have jumped from animals to human from 1960s to 2021. SARS-CoV evolved in 2002 in China, MERS-CoV evolved in 2013 in Middle East and SARS-CoV-2 in 2019 in China [Liu 2021]. Severity of newer viruses is increasing and duration between two epidemics is decreasing over time.

 

These viruses have spilled over to humans from turkey, mouse, cow, pig, cat, dog, camel and bats [Ye 2021]. Bats and rats are host of coronaviruses which interact with cattle, camels, cats and dogs to mediate spillover of viruses to humans [Ye 2021]. There is no way to escape as long as we do not limit our contact with animals. Bats cut cattle to suck blood in hot and humid countries.

 

All coronaviruses detected so far had jumped from bats to humans therefore it is necessary to increase studies how to contain bats in forests and caves. Stop deforestation and reduce human animal interaction in daily life. Manage population to reduce meat, fossil fuels and landscape demands.

 

Alpha, beta, gamma and delta viruses have killed zillions and peril of new coronavirus variant omicron is looming over heads worldwide. Several countries have been infected and it is spreading like tsunami to the rest of countries. There is no way to freeze borders in this connected world [Stephanie 2021].

 

Several countries have banned flights and placed restrictions on African and omicron affected countries, and others are thinking lockdown and booster vaccines. Face mask has become norm more precautions are underway. SAARC countries shut down schools first for COVID-10 then for smog and now may be for omicron in future. COVID-19 has affected world economy and destroyed education system.

 

Medical experts are not sure what will be reaction of omicron to vaccines. Multiple waves and variants of COVID-19 have infected more than 262 million people out of which more than 5 million have died. More than 236 million survived COVID-19 out of which several have one or other type of aberration in social behaviors. Elder citizens are more susceptible to COVID-19 attack due to their weaker immune systems.

 

Vaccinated people are three times less likely to be affected by Covid-19 and ten times less likely to die compared to unvaccinated people [Stephen 2021]. Can a vaccinated person be carrier of a new variant? Vaccinated carriers might have no danger but they become danger for others.

 

Delta virus has done most of deaths in India where people were seen lying on roadsides and river banks. Pyres were running all times day and night yet people were waiting for last ceremonies in lines on roads. Oxygen shortage and racial discrimination created a mayhem in India.

 

Delta and lambda variants were on radar word wide after Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants at start of 2021 and omicron at end of 2021 [Manavi 2021]. Some countries claimed lambda to be deadlier than delta variant yet delta has caused more infections and deaths than any other variant [CNBC 2021]. Delta variant had spread to more than 85 countries and lambda to 27 countries by June 2021.

 

Delta variant is on wax and lambda on wane. However, some new variants, such as B.1.621, are in watch list of CDC and WHO. Delta variant can infect even the vaccinated persons yet lambda variant is on wane in most countries [Reuters 2021].

 

UK detects a new COVID-19 variant, called lambda variant. Delta variant is 60% more transmissible than alpha which was 60% more transmissible than original Coronavirus detected in China in 2019. All vaccines are good against all variants but there is no warranty of 100% efficacy. Vaccinated people may get COVID but symptoms will be milder than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people still need get tested. Pfizer is developing third dose booster yet FDA and CDC consider it too early [Maggie 2021].

 

Fully vaccinated people with sinopharm getting COVID again report no cough and no fever yet joint pain, headache, neck pain, upper back pain, pneumonia, loss of appetite and general weakness. This virus does not live in nasopharyngeal region as it directly affects the lungs. Nasal swab tests are often negative for the COVID-Delta victims. Main symptoms of lambda variant are high temperature, continuous cough, loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

 

Lambda variant (C.37) is new addition in earlier list of alpha, beta, gamma and delta variants. There might some new variants in future. Variants continue emerging over passage of time. Longer the residence time in patient and wider the spread of viruses the more the changes of new variants. Delta variant has spread to 85 countries and lambda to 29 countries [Dejania 2021].

 

Pfizer vaccines are generally considered more effective against alpha, beta, gamma and epsilons yet new reports of delta variant attacks on vaccinated persons in Israel has confused Covid-10 victims. This media report has sent a wave of confusion worldwide [Marianne 2021]. WHO urges to use face masks despite double dose of vaccines as vaccinated people are contracting delta variant [Seana 2021].

 

Pfizer (US Make) was claimed to be effective against all variants yet proved less effective against delta variant in Israel. Moderna (US Make) vaccine is being claimed to be more effective against delta variant [Katie 2021]. AstraZeneca (Sweden/UK) is reported to be less effective against delta variant. JJ Janssen (US Make) is less effective against delta variant. There are various reports on effectiveness of Sputnik (Russia Make) vaccine against delta variant. Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are less effective like Pfizer against delta variant as these trigger lesser antibodies. All vaccines provide some protection yet bear in mind the delta variant is far more transmissible than other variants. WHO has given green light to Chinese vaccines sinvac and sinopharm which are not approved by many western countries.

 

Alpha (detected in UK), Beta (detected in South Africa), Gamma (detected in Brazil), Epsilons (detected in USA) and Delta (detected in India) variants now circulating in United States are classified as variants of concern. Delta variant, causing massive pyres in India, has reached 85 countries and medical experts advise to accelerate vaccination of unvaccinated people. Recent survey shows 30% US adults, 16% UK adults and 19% Canadian adults are vaccine hesitant [Andrew 2021].

 

Delta variant has been doubling infections every 11 days in UK and now 90% of daily reported cases are due to delta variant. Two doses of vaccines provide effective protection against all variants of Covid-19.  Two weeks after second dose, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective against delta and 93% against alpha variant. AstraZeneca vaccine was found 60% effective delta and 66% against alpha variants. These both vaccines are 33% effective against delta and 50% effective against alpha three weeks after first doze. Covid-19 vaccines provide protection against delta variant [PHE 2021].

 

Experts believe delta variant has triggered a dangerous new phase in pandemic. More than 90% people have already got and recovered delta virus in India, however, delta variant may be threat for other countries [Kai 2021]. A mutated strain of delta variant, delta plus, may become the next variant. Delta variant is present in 174 districts in India and delta plus in 10 states. Delta plus, with an additional mutation, does not mean to be more transmissible or dangerous rather just another type [Kaunain 2021]. Coronaviruses are zoonotic in nature which jump from animals to humans. Chances of virus jumping are higher in high population countries due to biodiversity, wide range of cultures and climate conditions. Covid-19 was first reported in China, Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) in UK, Beta variant (B.1.351) in South Africa, Gamma variant (P.1) in Brazil and Delta variant in India (B.1.617.2) [Michelle 2021].

 

According WHO, “One mutation, called N501Y, shared by the Alpha, Gamma and Beta variant seems to make the virus better at infecting cells and spreading. The Delta variant has some potentially important ones (such as L452R) that might make it spread more easily. The Beta and Gamma variants also have a key mutation, called E484K, that may help the virus evade antibodies, key parts of the immune system which help bodies fight off infection.” Experts believe existing jabs can be redesigned to protect against emerging new variants. Elder vulnerable people may need another dose later.

In new political war of vaccines India has refused to accept EU digital green certificate until they not accept Indian Covishield vaccine. Many European countries like Spain, Austria, Greece and Germany have accepted Indian traveler pass and many others are brainstorming. This is starting point of fifth wave of covid-19 as 70 to 90% new cases are attributed to delta variant originally detected in India. Political science seems to be riding over medical science. However, EU not ready to issue digital green certificate for Indian Covishield and Covaxin vaccines that is intended for only EU [BBC, 2021].

Indian Delta variant is 60% more infection efficiency and it has already spread to 60 countries including United Kingdom and United State. Experts worry the cases may increase again in fall 2021 in USA due to delta variant [Jeanne 2021]. Genetic code for various variants are slightly different yet precautions against all variants in principle remain the same. Lab research shows the antibodies that can fight the infection - triggered by vaccination or past infection - may be somewhat less effective against Delta. Astra Zeneca is good against alpha yet less effective against other variants. Moderna vaccine is more effective against beta, however, Pfizer is effective against new variants.

Indian delta variant is 60% more transmissible than UK alpha variant that was 40% more transmissible than original coronavirus detected in China in 2019. WHO fears the delta variant will pick off vulnerable victims as 90% new cases in UK and 31% new cases in USA are due to delta variant. Bear in mind delta variant is not protected by partial (1/2) vaccination [Ashley 2021]. Europe expecting 70% to 90% new cases due to delta variant in August 2021 [Daniel 2021].

 

WHO variants of concern (VOC) include alpha (B.1.1.7: England), beta (B.1.351: South Africa), gamma (P.1: Brazil/Japan) and delta (B.1.617.2: India).  WHO variants of interest (VOI) include eta (B.1.525: UK/Nigeria), iota (B.1.526: USA), kappa (B.1.617.1: India) and lambda (C.37: Peru). Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effectiveness is 33% after 1 dose and 88% after 2 doses. AstraZeneca vaccine effectiveness is 33% after 1 dose and 60% after 2 doses. However, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine protection against hospitalization by delta variant is 94% after 1 dose and 96% after 2 doses. AstraZeneca vaccine effectiveness against delta variant is 71% after 1 dose and 92% after 2 doses [Jason 2021]. Ground reality shows Pfizer vaccinated patients are contracting delta variant in Israel and AstraZeneca vaccinated people in UK.

Summer heat has reduced number of daily cases worldwide. A reduction of -6% has been recorded last week in daily new cases worldwide. Humidity is low in May and June months therefore chances of covid-19 spreading become limited in hot countries. Hot and humid months of July and August may increase daily Covid-19 cases to higher humidity levels due to rains. UVC can kill viruses yet it is absorbed in air so does not reach earth’s surface. Higher humidity helps accelerate infection rates. Symptoms of various variants, overlapping with first Covid-19 virus and variants. Signs and symptoms of various variants may vary among different people due their dynamic nature. We have different levels of immunity so impacts of variants may vary person to person. The main symptoms of lambda variant are high temperature, continuous cough, loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

 

Symptoms of this variant are high fever, continuous cough, loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. CDC/WHO classifies Covid-19 strains as variants of concern (VOC) and variants of interest (VOI). Covid-19 sent first shock wave worldwide in early 2020. Alpha triggered second wave in UK, beta in south Africa and Gamma in Brazil. Alpha, beta and gamma created chaos in USA in 2020-21. Delta virus wreaked a havoc in India. Various countries noting regenerative waves of Coronavirus as new variant rises when old variant decays. Omicron is expected to trigger another wave worldwide.

Covid-19 pandemic has affected economy worldwide. GDP growth went below zero in many countries. Several countries are opening flights and reducing quarantining requirements. Pandemic chaos is dimming over time and vaccinated people are being permitted to travel abroad. Idea of immunity passports will help reduce impact of pandemic on business and economies. Vaccinated people can travel yet possibility of vaccinated persons in aircraft to be carrier of a new variant cannot be ruled out.

 

In fact airlines had mediated spread of coronavirus at start. Airliners now require passengers to bring covid-19 negative test results in last 72 hours in addition to temperature checkup before boarding airplane. Several papers offloaded on basis of unsatisfactory test results.

 

Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in India during second wave. They burning, burying and throwing dead bodies in rivers due to expensive fuel woods. Indian rivers are washed up with dead covid-19 victims’ bodies. Indian variant is a global threat and transmitting to other countries. Immunity passports may allow them travel abroad to attend international events [Catherine 2021]. Immunity passports may be used to relax restrictions during lockdown [Rebecca 2021].

 

Airlines may start asking for covid-19 vaccination certificates and recovery certificate, so called immunity passport, in near future. Chile, Germany, Italy, UK and USA are weighing on immunity passports issued to people who were infected by covid-19 and have recovered. However, experts demand to exceptions to people who can’t vaccinate due to medical reasons [Nicole 2021].

 

Dr. Peter says an immunity bubble is an “intimate group of folks who have been vaccinated and can get together without protection.” Your immunity bubble should only include people who are “fully vaccinated” - which means they have received both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination or one-dose of a single-dose vaccine, and waited the proper amount of time as recommended by CDC. Vaccinated people in bubble may meet at home instead of public places [Brookdale 2021].

“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection”. WHO warns in her guidelines that there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19, and have antibodies, are protected from a second infection [WHO 2021].

 

WHO scientific brief writes, “the development of immunity to a pathogen through natural infection is a multi-step process that typically takes place over 1-2 weeks. The body responds to a viral infection immediately with a non-specific innate response in which macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells slow the progress of virus and may even prevent it from causing symptoms. This non-specific response is followed by an adaptive response where the body makes antibodies that specifically bind to the virus. These antibodies are proteins called immunoglobulins.

 

The body also makes T-cells that recognize and eliminate other cells infected with the virus. This is called cellular immunity. This combined adaptive response may clear the virus from the body, and if the response is strong enough, may prevent progression to severe illness or re-infection by the same virus … However, as of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.” [Wolfel 2020, Wu 2020].

 

Vaccination certificate, Carte Jaune by WHO, is record that some has vaccinated against any disease. However, immunity passport mean that someone suffered from covid-19 and recovered successfully. Idea of immunity passport was conceived to reduce covid-19 cases and economic impacts [Chotani 2020]. It is a health passport showing vaccination certificate or immunity surviving Covid-19.

 

Health authorities may issue immunity certificate after serology test i.e. he/she has antibodies. These antibodies are either developed naturally by recovering from disease or triggered by vaccination. The protective immunity lasts long against slowly mutating pathogens. Bearers may be exempted from social distancing and quarantine restrictions on airports.

 

Medical experts warn the enforcement of above concept against covid-19 before certifying its protective immunity [Altmann 2020]. WHO considers shortage of sufficient evidence that a covid-19 victim or vaccinated person does not get infected again. Recent research shpw Pfizer two-shot vaccines have 91.3% efficacy and six-months immunity in UK. These results are for elders and youngster have even better immunity response in various countries [Ian 2021].

 

IATA had proposed a Digital App for authentication of Covid-19 test results of travelers yet someone said it may become essential in future for Fiji, Australia and New Zealand later [RNZ 2021]. Chile has announced to issue Release Certificates (immunity passport) and other countries are weighing this idea. Chile medical experts believe recovery from covid-19 keeps enough antibodies for next three months. However, recent reports claim the 6 to 12 months old antibodies still neutralize new variants. Test tube experiments show the antibody LY-CoV1404 or LY3853113 neutralizes UK, Brazil, South Africa, New York and California variants [Nancy 2021]. Antibodies are detectable in 1- year old Covid-19 survivors.

 

Three-months immunity hypothesis proved true in India during second wave, when regions claiming to have developed herd immunity started contracting new covid-19 variants [Joymala 2020]. Daily cases at the end of first wave fell sharply so government got relaxed on social distancing, lockouts and face masks. Election campaigns, widespread religious festivals and long hauled strikes led to rampant rise in covid-19 new cases once again. When covid-19 cases started exceeding 350,000 per day rates media started lambasting Narendra Modi for this nightmare [Rupa 2021].

 

British analysts have warned against hate arising out of vaccines passports. Use of vaccines passports at airports, restaurants, pubs, stadiums and churches may create chaos among people. It will create hate and controversy whereas we need unity and harmony at this point in time.  Prof Reicher called it a kind of division and distraction that we cannot afford in middle of Covid-19 pandemic. Vaccination rate is far high in white race compared to other races. However, Prof John Drury, says it might be good for international travels not for domestic flights, supports stadiums, music festivals and work places [James 2021].

 

When new cases started reaching 400,000 per day many countries imposed travel bans on India. Australia reported a surge of 1500% increase due to Aussies returning from India. A quarter of 35,000 Aussies now stranded overseas are in India. The Australian Human Rights Commission lambasted the PM Scot Morrison decision to fine and jail citizens, urging lawmakers to immediately review the restrictions. Groups urge to improve quarantine system instead of leaving citizens stranded in Covid-19 ravaged India [Swati 2021]. Australia was supposed to vaccinate 4 million, instead of actually 2 million, people by March 2021. This is attributed to shortage of vaccines in market. India was one of the largest vaccine producers who is unable to meet her local demand during second wave. In last two weeks of March 2021 the world community recorded more new cases than first six months of covid-19 outbreak. India’s covid-19 catastrophe has multiplied cases and deaths due to election campaigns, religious festivals and Sikh strikes.

 

United States, India and Brazil are the most coronavirus effected countries. However, USA, Brazil and India had more death deaths than any other country on planet. China contained virus in first wave successfully. India, Brazil and USA are confronting 2nd, 3rd and 4th waves [Maya 2021]. However, Iran and Vietnam are facing sixth waves [Ana 2021]. First wave of Covid-19 pandemic reached Micronesia, Polynesia and Antarctica in South in 2021 [Michelle 2021]. Eastern, Western and Northern (Arctic) countries are facing second, third and fourth waves by emerging covid-19 variants. The highest number of Covid-19 cases (43%) have been reported in United States, India and Brazil, and the lowest in Micronesia.

 

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, claims Indian Variant B.1.617 has some mutations which increase Covid-19 transmissions. It is antibody resistant variant, therefore may re-infect people. However, vaccination still helps control transmission, disease and death rates. “Those mutations could also potentially make the variant "resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccination or by natural infection.” Whatsoever, vaccines still make the covid-19 case milder. CDC calls B.1.617 a variant of interest, not variant of concern [Hilary 2021].

Indians started applying cow dung and urine on their bodies to protect against covid-19 attacks and medical doctors are warning against this unhygienic pathetic practice [Amit 2011]. Rise in black fungus infection in Covid-19 patients is a matter of great concern for diabetes who develop this infection a couple of weeks after recovery [Kelsie 2021].

 

It is very hard to detect which variant will affect population adversely where at what time. UK variant is infecting 90% people in SAARC countries. Brazilian and South African variants are also present in small proportions. Indian double mutant variant is badly affecting people in India. Media accuses government to be failed state in handling the Covid-19 Crisis. It is very hard to relate Covid-19 transmission with the weather patterns worldwide. Countries with temperature 10 to 50F with humidity 10 to 60% have lower cases compared to high temperature and humidity or vice versa combinations.

First wave peaked in Pakistan in June 2020 when daily average temperatures varied from 81 to 103 degree and at average 47% humidity. Second wave surged in December 2020 when temperature varied from 41 to 65 degrees at 61% humidity. Third wave peaked in April 2021 when temperature carried from 58 to 83 degrees at average humidity of 49%. The lowest cases were recorded in Micronesia where temperature is 81 degrees at 81% relative humidity. A fourth wave has started in Pakistan during high temperature and high humidity season of July/August due to monsoon rains.

Third wave surged in United States in winter months December 2020/January 2021 at 304,913 cases per day when temperature varied from 4 to 36 degrees due to deep freeze at average humidity of 67%. Extremely low temperature and high humidity. Second wave surged in India on 6 May 2021 at 414,433 cases per day when temperature varied from 77 to 103 degrees at average humidity of 33%. Extremely high temperature and low humidity. Third wave peaked in Brazil on 25 March 2021 at 97,586 cases per day when temperature varied from 68 to 78 degrees at average humidity of 85%. Extremely high humidity and above average high temperature. Fourth global wave peaked on 29 April 2021 at 904,916 cases per day when average global temperature varied 32 to 33 degrees at 80% humidity. This is case of an extreme humidity and rising average temperature. Average thermal humidity index is rising over time.

This statistic leads to simple conclusion that Covid-19 pandemic peaks when average temperature rises along with humidity or average temperature falls with low humidity. However, rise and fall in humidity and temperature affect covid-19 spreads.

 

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Source: Ocnus.net 2020