Now it’s time for On Point, where we speak to experts to delve deeper into the biggest news stories in the spotlight right now.
A matter of days after being detected in South Africa, new cases of the potentially more contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 are being reported in more and more countries.
While much more research needs to be done, there are concerns the new variant could be more resistant to the vaccines currently available to us.
For now, at least, this strain has poured cold water on hopes that the pandemic and associated antivirus restrictions would keep winding down as they had been doing.
Many nations have imposed travel restrictions on flights from southern Africa or shut their borders altogether as they try to buy time before we know more information about Omicron.
For more, we are joined by Ben Cowling, Chair Professor of Epidemiology at The University of Hong Kong. Professor, the WHO has deemed this strain a "variant of concern.” With the data currently available, what do we know about Omicron in terms of its transmissibility, re-infection potential, antibody resistance and its susceptibility to vaccines?
Many studies have shown that - over time - even dangerous pathogens mutate so much that they eventually become just another common virus. Lots of people are hanging their hopes on that being the case here. However, how likely do you think it is that COVID-19 could it go the other way and become more transmissible and more deadly?
The Delta variant has been the most common strain of COVID-19 in recent months. It might be the case that Omicron takes its place. When this occurs, what happens to previous variants? For instance, we rarely hear of people contracting the original Alpha strain anymore…
Finally, while we await more information about Omicron, many governments have thrown caution to the wind and some, like Israel and Japan, have locked down their borders. First, do border closures work to keep these strains out? And secondly, if you were advising a government, what would you suggest they do at this time?
Professor Cowling, as always, a pleasure to hear your insights and thank you for joining us again.