More infections with Omicron strain possible in Russia today than known, expert says

TASS Russian News Agency | Dec 11, 2021 at 4:12 AM

MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. The number of patients with the new Omicron coronavirus strain in Russia is higher than the currently known two infections, founder and general director of the DNKOM research center for molecular and genetic studies Andrei Isaev thinks.

"The first two cases of Omicron were uncovered in Russia on Monday. Yet in our country the viral strain can be determined only by sequencing, which is a labor-intensive lengthy process and, of course, not all samples are sequenced. Actually, we know that two out of 10 [people with] a positive PCR [test] who flew in from South Africa are the carriers of the new strain. Yet I can allow that all 10 are infected with Omicron since statistics from Africa shows that the new strain is crowding out Delta everywhere. Considering that Russia is in one of the last places worldwide in terms of the correlation between administered PCR tests and sequencing, I think, we can say that there are more patients with Omicron in Russia than we know," he told TASS.

The expert also noted that so far it is difficult to estimate how fast the outbreak of the Omicron infection in Russia will develop since the climate in Russia is completely different from the South African one. "We have a different nature of waves and the age structure of the population. Yet I would like to note that both in South Africa and in the UK we are observing an exponential growth of patients and hospitalizations so one can presume a similar development of events in our country as well," he concluded.

On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant identified in South Africa as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. In its statement, the WHO noted that "this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." The epicenter of the spread of the Omicron strain is southern Africa. The highest number of those infected with it has been detected in South Africa. The new strain has already been recorded in 57 countries. At the same time, not a single fatality has been documented among those infected with Omicron.

On December 6, the first two cases of the infection with Omicron were registered in Russia. According to the sanitary watchdog, it was detected in the arrivals from South Africa.