The Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus strain in South Africa, less than two weeks after it was first detected in the country.
The new B.1.1.529 lineage accounts for 76% of samples that have been genetically sequenced in November, according information published by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Friday. The new variant was discovered in South Africa from specimens collected on Nov. 12.
South Africa sequences less than 1% of cases, according to GISAID, a public database of genetic sequencing data, while the United States sequences about 4% of cases. And South Africa’s NICD notes that that the number of genetic sequences conducted November is especially low, but ongoing.
By contrast, it took the Delta variant a few months to become the dominant strain in South Africa in early 2021.
The Omicron variant has been detected in about a dozen countries, according to GISAID, a public database of genetic sequencing data.
Remember: There's still a lot we don't know about Omicron. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said it's not yet clear whether the Omicron variant is more contagious than the Delta variant.
It's also too early to tell whether the Omicron variant causes more severe illness, Collins said.