The COVID-19 virus is breeding and mutating, bringing us all to our knees. There’s a new variant of the virus, Omicron, and it is changing a lot about what we know when it comes to the Corona Virus.
Scientists have said, “This is probably the most mutated virus we’d ever seen.”
It’s speculated to behave differently, spread differently, with a new level of severity when it comes to the symptoms. The whole world is trying to fight back and deal with it before more damage is done. Lebanon on the other hand is going through their share of battles, and now with Omicron, there’s another battle they have to win.
Here’s what we know about the variant and what Lebanon’s Health Minister, Firass Abiad, has to say about how they are planning on dealing with it.
The variant was first detected in Botswana in Southern Africa on the 11th of November. According to the World Health Organization, this variant differs greatly from previous variants we know of on many levels. It has several mutations that changes many aspects of the already existing Covid virus; such as its transmissibility and severity. Studies continue to be made, and while it’s not confirmed that it spreads faster, it’s evident that numbers are growing in South Africa.
When it comes to the severity of the symptoms, the WHO has stated, “Understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.” However, it’s known that the dominant Delta variant causes extreme illness or death; yet People who have been infected by Omicron have only experienced mild symptoms.
There’s more work to be done to understand the variant and whether or not the current vaccines would still be effective. With the whole world in the dark and medicine as the only weapon, Lebanon struggles and it’s under-armed.
An economic crisis is now directly affecting the health and well-being of the small Levant country. Many doctors and nurses have left their jobs in Lebanon, so medical treatment is not abundant. Add that to the devaluations of the Lebanese lira and the rise in prices of medical supplies.
Furthermore, in January, the Alpha variant caused a surge in the number of deaths and infections. The fear that this mutated variant would have the same effect is present. With that in mind, and the outbreak being in Africa, many countries put up travel bans; which has a global financial effect. This leaves Lebanon in a vulnerable place.
Nonetheless, Health Minister Dr. Firass Abiad is optimistic. For starters, no cases of the Omicron variant have been registered in Lebanon!
Dr. Abiad said that improvements in Lebanon have been made. He said, “Lebanon now has the capability to conduct genome sequencing, which meant it could track specific mutations of the virus more accurately. The technology, which was introduced to the country six months ago with the support of the World Health Organization, was unavailable when the country battled the peaks of the Alpha and Delta variants.”
Additionally, he had something positive to say about the recent vaccination rates, as Lebanon targets groups with a high risk of infection. “If you look at the percentage of vaccinated in our elderly population who are most vulnerable, we have a very high penetration of vaccination among them and now we are accelerating the booster shot to them as well,” he said.
Looking closely at Lebanon’s healthcare system and its economical status, the Ministry of Health is working on increasing hospital capacity by 30%. The Health Minister said, “the government did not yet have access to sufficient data to plan a response to the new variant.” However, the whole world is still struggling with figuring out how to tackle this problem, but Lebanon is attentive.