Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it has produced countless mutations and resultant variants or strains.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says some of the variants have little or no impact on the virus’ properties, while others may be of interest and concern due to their properties such as how easily they spread, associated disease severity, the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.
The characterisation of Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs) is meant to prioritise global monitoring and research, and ultimately inform the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WHO and its collaborators have so far identified five VOCs, namely Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron.
The records have it that multiple countries with extensive transmission of VOCs have used public health and social measures, including infection prevention and control, in reducing COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Health authorities are, therefore, encouraged to continue strengthening existing measures as well as surveillance and sequencing capacities and apply a systematic approach to provide a representative indication of the extent of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variants based on the local context,
There is every evidence Ghana continues to obey WHO guidelines while adopting home-grown measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to announce its detection of cases of Omicron in the country is in itself a great achievement because detection is the first step to fighting the new variant.
The cases are said to have been imported from Nigeria and South Africa with the first one identified on November 21, through genome sequencing.
A genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism and genomic sequencing is a laboratory method used in determining the entire make-up of a specific organism or cell type.
The result can be used to diagnose and treat the specific disease.
The efforts of the GHS point to its competence and the levels of vigilance and surveillance.
For instance, the Service says there is no community spread yet but is intensifying testing and surveillance measures to contain possible spread of the variant said to be themost mutated of the COVID-19 virus.
In spite of all the competence and the efforts, the GHS can be counted among the best healthcare services around the globe only if the Ghanaian people take pride in its efforts in every way possible to support it, especially in its fight against COVID-19.
The Ghanaian Times, therefore, encourages the people that to start with, they must make it their walking mantra the theme of the Ghana COVID-19 Vaccination Month, which is ‘Protect yourself, protect your family, get vaccinated now against COVID-19’.
Ghanaians truly need to help the GHS to achieve herd immunity by going for the jabs and, in addition, adhere to all the measures meant to fight COVID-19.
That way, we will not fear the Omicron variant or any other, not even those to emerge in the future, because we would have fortified ourselves against them.
No one should allow himself or herself to be taken unawares because it is not yetclear whether Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared to other variants, including Delta.
Currently, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron, by assessing its transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments.
WHO therefore encourages countries to contribute the collection and sharing of hospitalised patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinic to rapidly describe clinical characteristics and patient outcomes.
There is no doubt GHS will acquit itself creditably here, considering all its efforts to fight COVID-19, to make Ghana proud.