Laboratory research from South Africa strongly suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant escapes antibody immunity induced by the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine, but that considerable immunity is retained in people who were both vaccinated and previously infected.
“The clinical implications of these important laboratory data need to be determined. It is likely that lesser vaccine-induced protection against infection and disease would be the result. Importantly, most vaccinologists agree that the current vaccines will still protect against severe disease and death in the face of Omicron infection. It is therefore critical that everyone should be vaccinated,” said Africa Health Research Institute executive director Professor Willem Hanekom.
The research has been submitted to medRxiv. To access an advance copy of the manuscript, click here.
Well that escalated quickly…
Omicron, BA.1, and BA.2 – We need to follow them closely. One has an S-gene drop out the other not. Genomics surveillance and qPCR are essential to control it as it spreads widelyl.
— Tulio de Oliveira (@Tuliodna) December 7, 2021
Tulio de Oliveira is Director of CERI: Centre for Epidemic Response & innovation, South Africa
“The threat from Omicron is enormous”. NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg says the Omicron variant of the coronavirus can cause a lot of infection and disease, “perhaps more than before in the pandemic”.
“It seems to be easier to infect vaccinated in addition to unvaccinated,” says Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg says that it now seems that people will not get sicker from the new variant, but that more people will get sick and that this means that more people will become seriously ill as well.
The situation is serious. The government fears that a further increase in infection will lead to the health service not being able to provide all help.
– The infection must be limited so that not many people need health care at the same time, said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and outlined new measures and recommendations:
– We encourage everyone to reduce the number of close contacts.
– The one meter rule is back, keep your distance.
– Recommends a maximum of 10 people at home, and 20 on Christmas Eve or another party at Christmas (if you can keep a meter distance between the guests)
– Training should take place outdoors.
– Take the vaccine.
Mandatory for facemasks if you can not keep a distance of one meter.
– Mandatory facemasks and restrictions on guests do not apply to children, who can invite more than 10 people from those they are still in a cohort with in kindergarten and school.
Very intrusive coronary restrictions are now being introduced that affect many companies. It is good that the government is acting quickly and introducing a national compensation scheme for November and December. But companies need further measures, says NHO director Ole Erik Almlid.
NHO wants to put in place a scheme for wage support, to avoid mass layoffs before Christmas.
NHO otherwise understands that the development of infection and the situation around the omicron variant necessitate new restrictions.
But Almlid is very worried about what it means for the restaurant and nightlife bars that you now get cancelled Christmas dinners and large falls in turnover.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends a maximum of 10 people in private homes, one meter social distancing and bar closures.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends that there be a national recommendation for a maximum of 10 guests in private homes, they write in the professional basis they have provided to the government.
They also believe that there should be a recommendation to limit the number of social contacts per week, preferably to less than 10. These are exempt from contacts in connection with leisure activities, school and work. They also believe that it should be recommended that you meet outdoors where possible.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends several measures, including an order to stop drinking at midnight.
In addition, these measures are introduced:
- Recommendation: Use of home office, flexible working hours and digital meetings.
- Recommendation to keep at least 1 meter away from others in the workplace (nationally)
- Recommendation for face masks where it is not possible to keep a distance, unless physical barriers have been put in place (supplements the national face bandage recommendation, which has been recommended previously). (Nationally)
- Mandatory: Indoor events: 30 people
- Mandatory: With fixed allocated places: 200
- Order: Registration of guests
The proposals include reopening the compensation scheme for the business community for the rest of the year and extending the support measures for public transport and flights until March.
VG.no report (in Norwegian)
“The death toll has increased week by week now… we are falling behind in the fight against infection,” said the chief physician at the University Hospital of Northern Norway, Mats Gilbert. “The number of corona inpatients who need intensive care is higher than before, and it seems to be increasing”.
He also pointed out that even though Norway has high vaccination rates, it does not seem to stop the new variant from advancing. The corona pandemic has so far claimed 1,093 lives in Norway. About 17% of the deaths have occurred in the last month, the newspaper Klassekampen writes.
Norway, in terms of daily numbers, are seeing their highest ever casualty rates from Covid – up to 50 deaths on some days.
Norway and Denmark have both seen a steady increase in Covid deaths since early November, before the Omicron variant was discovered. Vaccine waning and seasonal effects on the Delta variant could be a cause, but a more infectious SARS-CoV-2 strain couldn’t have come at a worse time for either country.
The outbreak with the corona variant Omicron is now so widespread in Viborg Municipality that the municipality can no longer stay within the Danish Agency for Patient Safety’s guidelines.
The rules from the Danish Agency for Patient Safety say that both those infected with the Omicron variant, close contacts and close contacts to close contacts must be in isolation. However, as Omicron has already spread a lot in the municipality, the many repatriated employees create problems, especially in elderly care.
“We have to break the guidelines. We encourage close contacts to close contacts to show up at the nursing homes, and then they get a full suit, bandage or visor on. We do it, because otherwise we can not maintain the critical operation,” says municipal director of Viborg Municipality Lasse Jacobsen.
Viggo Andreasen, associate professor at Roskilde University who specializes in mathematical epidemiology, said he believes that the current picture shows that we have no control over the epidemic in Denmark.
“There is no indication that we have seriously stopped the increase in corona”, Andreasen says to Ritzau.
On Monday, 7146 cases were found. However, the figure is subject to uncertainty, SSI states on its website. This is because there are a number of tests from the weekend that have only been included in today’s figures. Nevertheless, more than 10,000 cases of infection have been found in the last two days.
TV2.dk (in Danish)
On Monday morning, 6th December, Norway’s assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad says that they have no control over the new variant.
“Unfortunately, we do not have control because there are more and more confirmed cases, but also a number of suspected cases. And since this variant is probably more contagious than Delta, we must probably expect that it can appear almost everywhere in Norway now,” says Nakstad in an interview with VGTV.
VG.no report (in Norwegian)
Up to 120 people have so far been confirmed infected with corona after the Louise Restaurant, Oslo, Christmas table. The health authorities take no chances and consider all those infected to be unchromically infected until the sequencing results should prove otherwise.
A little over 70 are connected to the Scatec Christmas table, while 45-50 are other guests at the Louise restaurant the same evening, says the infection control doctor.
We are now trying to slow it down, but can not stop it, says Tine Ravlo, assistant district doctor and infection control doctor in district Frogner, to Dagbladet.
UPDATE: There are currently three Omicron superspreader events under investigation in Norway:
- November 26: Christmas dinner at Louise Restaurant, Oslo: More than 120 people have been confirmed infected with corona in connection with an outbreak at the Louise restaurant at Aker Brygge in Oslo. Just over 70 of those infected belonged to the Christmas table of the solar energy company Scatec. The others were guests at the nightclub the same evening, November 26. All known cases so far were fully vaccinated, with two doses.
- November 27: Christmas table at Maarud in Sør-Odal: At least 42 people have been diagnosed with infection after a Christmas table at Maarud in Sør-Odal municipality. Among those infected are employees of the company, hosts, and entertainment actors. The municipal chief believes that there is reason to believe that this is the omikron variant, but that the municipality has not received an answer to the tests that have been sent for sequencing.
- November 29 and 30: Conference at Lysebu in Oslo: Seven people have been confirmed infected, and about a hundred have been quarantined after an HR conference organized by Abelia. Results from screening place three cases as “likely omicron”. All those infected in the outbreak are fully vaccinated with two doses. The infected come from six different municipalities in five counties.
UPDATE 6/12/2021: The number is increasing: Now more than 130 people have been infected after a Christmas dinner at Aker Brygge. More than half have now received a “probable Omicron” on screening tests.
Original report Christmas dinner at Louise Restaurant, Oslo below:
A Christmas lunch with 150 guests in Viborg, Denmark, has given rise to an outbreak of infection with the new Omicron variant. 53 people at the party have been confirmed infected with Omikron, the Danish Agency for Patient Safety informs TV2.
According to newspaper Viborg Folkeblad, the party was held in Hersom Assembly House, and several high school students participated.
According to the media, the outbreak of infection has, among other things, led to Viborg Cathedral School sending more students home on Friday.
Nyheder.tv2.dk report (in Danish)
42 people have so far been diagnosed with Covid following a Christmas dinner at Maarud on Saturday 27th November. It includes company employees, hosts, entertainment actors and a few household members for people who attended the Christmas table.
Supposedly every third person present during the event has been diagnosed with corona. About half of the infected people live in South Odal.
The municipality mayor thinks there is reason to believe that in this outbreak of infection there is a talk about the omikron variant, but the municipality has not yet received answers to the tests sent to Ahus for sequencing.
VG.no report (in Norwegian)
Update 7th December 2021: Approaching 60 corona-infected after the Maarud Christmas table
The infection rate after the Christmas table at the potato gold producer Maarud last Saturday is now approaching 60.
The municipality of Sør-Odal in the Inland, where the Christmas table was held, stated on Tuesday that ten new inhabitants have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The Omicron variant identified in Southern Africa in late November 2021 is the product of extensive evolution within an infection context that has so far left no obvious traces of intermediate forms since it diverged from the B.1.1 lineage (presumably at some time in mid to late 2020).
“Our analysis identifies three clustered sets of mutations in the Spike protein, involving 13 amino acids that have previously been highly conserved across SARS-CoV-2 and other Sarbecoviruses. This dramatic about-face in evolutionary dynamics at these 13 sites suggests that Omicron’s Spike protein structure has accommodated significant sequence change, likely in response to selective pressures favoring increased transmission,immune evasion, or viral replication—either at the population level or in a single or group of chronically infected individuals—and has potentially acquired new functionality.”
There has been a significant rise in new SARS-CoV-2 infections in the Gauteng Province in the last four weeks which has been attributed to the new Omicron variant announced on 24 November 2021. The first cases of Omicron were detected in the Tshwane District and coincided with the sharp rise in new infections, heralding the onset of the fourth wave in Gauteng.
Tshwane has been the global epicentre of the Omicron Outbreak and the Gauteng Province Fourth Wave with the weekly number of cases rising exponentially over several weeks, reaching just over 8569 cases in Epi Week 47 (21 November -November 27 and 41 921 by 3 December before the end of Epi Week 48 (28 November to 4 December). The exponential rise in cases has continued with 9929 new cases reported in Tshwane in the last 5 days from 29 November to 3 December 2021 (Figure 1).
We report on the early experience of the patient profile at the Steve Biko/Tshwane District Hospital Complex in Pretoria, in the heart of the Tshwane District.
The emergence of the Omicron variant shows that the world is “closer to the start of the pandemic than the end”, one of Britain’s most senior scientific figures has warned, as he lamented a lack of political leadership over Covid.
Writing in the Observer, Sir Jeremy Farrar said rich countries had been taking “a very blinkered domestic focus, lulled into thinking that the worst of the pandemic was behind us”. He said while he was cautiously hopeful that current vaccines would protect against severe illness from Omicron, that may not be true for future variants.
Welcome to the dark side Jeremy….