Although Omicron is touted as mild compared to previous variants, it is widely known to be more contagious than previous Covid strains.
However, a team of researchers at University of New South Wales in Australia have mapped the infectious rate of Omicron, which also explains why some scientists believe the worst of the virus may not yet be over, Daily Mail reported.
The findings reveal that Omicron is 10 times better at escaping Covid vaccine and immunity than the previous Delta variant. This may also explain why the virus spread so swiftly around the world, in a little span of time from its discovery.
The super-mutant variant was first discovered from South Africa and Botswana in late November. It has so far spread to more than 120 countries, outpacing the dominant Delta variant in many countries.
In a highly secure clean room at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, experts studied the strain at the beginning of Australia’s Omicron wave in mid-December and found out just how adept the variant is at evading vaccines, the report said.
While the Delta variant was 60 per cent better at evading antibodies than the original virus found in Wuhan – even in the bodies of the double-vaxxed, Omicron was 16.5 times better at evading immunity – 10 times more than Delta.
But while the Omicron wave is subsiding across the globe, scientists believe new variants may continue to emerge for years – particularly in winter.
Already in Europe and parts of Asia, a new subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2 is rapidly spreading with indications it could be even more contagious than its predecessor, the Omicron BA.1 strain, the report said.
Danish health officials estimate that BA.2 may be 1.5 times more transmissible than BA.1 based on preliminary data, but it likely does not cause more severe disease.
According to the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies the best scenario for the end of the Covid pandemic involved new variants no worse than what have already been seen and global immunity remaining high.
But a worse case scenario involves ‘unpredictable’ new variants which could evade current immunity and move too fast for updated vaccines to keep up.
There is a strong theory in the scientific community that Covid will evolve to become less dangerous, the report said.
However, experts warn a continued easing in the potency of Covid should not be taken for granted.
“There’s this assumption that something more transmissible becomes less virulent. I don’t think that’s the position we should take,” Francois Balloux, a computational biologist at University College London, told scientific journal Nature.