Omicron variant: Scientist warns how infectious strain may be
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Words often get banded around these days as names for all sorts of things. For example, storms. In recent years the world has had to come to terms with the ongoing Covid pandemic. This includes the names that have been given to various strains of the virus, the latest of which is Omicron. So, where exactly does this word attribute its origins to?
Where does Omicron originate from?
Omicron can trace its roots as a word back to Ancient Greece.
Specifically, the word is the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet, which transliterated into English would be the vowel ‘o’.
The word omicron itself translates from Greek as ‘o micron’ which means small in contrast with omega.
In the system of Greek numerals, omicron has a value of 70 and is also derived from the Phonecian letter ‘ayin’.
The Greek alphabet system was originally developed in Greece at around 1000 BC.
It’s the direct or indirect ancestor of all modern European alphabets which itself was derived from the North Semitic alphabet via that of the Phoenicians.
As it was formed the Greek alphabet was slightly modified through the addition and removal of several letters.
In the past week, Omicron has come to the attention of the world as the name for the latest variant of Covid.
The strain was initially called B.1.1.529 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and was first reported by South Africa on Wednesday.
Since then it has been officially identified in six other countries from around the world.
These are Botswana, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Israel and Hong Kong, although health officials fear that it has already infiltrated many other countries.
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Early evidence of infection from the variant suggests that it contains many mutations and that there is a higher risk of reinfection.
The emergence of the new strain has led to many countries imposing travel bans or restrictions on people travelling from nations in Southern Africa.
For example, the UK announced, on Thursday, that people travelling from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini would not be able to enter the country unless they are UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents.
Other countries including the US, Australia, India and France have also already announced similar restrictions.
The WHO has said that the number of cases of the Omicron variant appeared to be growing across all of South Africa’s provinces.
In a statement the UN public health body said: “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.”
WHO officials say it will take several weeks before they can understand how transmissible the new variant is.
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