The messenger logo

Omicron Strain of Covid-19 Confirmed in Georgia

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Tuesday, December 21
The first two cases of the novel Omicron coronavirus strain were verified in Georgia yesterday.

The World Health Organization has classified the new strain, which was first discovered in South Africa last month, as a ‘variant of concern’ (WHO). It contains an ‘extraordinary amount of spike mutations,’ according to the WHO, which is worrying because of the possible influence on the pandemic's course.

Omicron multiplies 70 times quicker in human airways, according to current research, yet the infection in the lungs appears to be milder.

As of now, omicron has been confirmed in more than 90 countries and is expected to increase load on hospitals.

Georgian health official Amiran Gamkrelidze, the director of Georgia's National Center for Disease Control, says those with the new type are feeling stable and are being treated at home.

He said that 10 suspicious cases were being studied in the country, of which 2 were confirmed, the other 8 were Delta.

“Both citizens are Georgians, one arrived from the US, other from Dubai. They have 26 contacts, which we are investigating.” Gamkrelidze said, adding that the virus was expected to spread in the country, but not very quickly.

As the NCDC head explained, this strain is faster, and harms those under 40 more easily.

“It is characterized by a relatively light current, but how it will develop in the future, because it has the ability to transfer easily, is still difficult to predict.”

According to him, the replacement of the Delta strain with Omicron is probably expected in about 2 months. Gamkrelidze does not expect a sudden deterioration of the epidemic until the New Year, and then, most likely, the epidemic will gradually worsen.

According to a study published by Science at Oxford University, which was conducted in South Africa, vaccines maintain efficacy against severe currents. Two doses of Pfizer vaccine protect against hospitalization by 70% with the Omicron variant. However, for Delta Strain, the same figure was 93%.

According to the data of December 20, 1,255,593 individuals have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the country so far, of which 1,080,162 have been fully vaccinated.

He said that according to the available statistics, 40% of the adult population will be vaccinated by the end of December.

Gamkrelidze said that the only way we can prevent further spread of Omicron and prevent the situation is vaccination, and unfortunately, we do not have a high vaccination rate.

“The double vaccination rate is 37.6% today; the coverage is not high and probably by the end of the year it will reach 40%, we cannot exceed the target 60%. In order for Omicron not to worsen the situation, we must vaccinate,” Gamkrelidze said.

According to him, the number of vaccinations is 10k daily, but it is necessary to vaccinate 30k people a day in order to stop the epidemic.

In addition, according to Gamkrelidze, it is necessary to get booster doses. The NCDC plans to submit a proposal to the Interagency Council that for the fully vaccinated, a booster will become mandatory and the time gap between the last vaccine and booster will be reduced for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs.

As for expanding the scope of the Green Passports, the NCDC director said that the Center has prepared a new package of recommendations, which will probably be submitted to the Coordinating Council tomorrow.

Recall that so-called Green Passports came into force on December 1. Fully vaccinated persons, ones who have had a negative PCR test in the last 72 hours, or antigen test in the last 24 hours, or have recovered from the coronavirus, are granted green status.

Georgia has reported 1,296 new cases of coronavirus, 4,127 recoveries and 45 deaths in the past 24 hours. 6.93% of tested individuals had Covid-19 in the past 14 days. 34,238 currently remain infected with Covid-19.

The country has had 910,456 cases of coronavirus since February 26, 2020. 13,116 have died from the virus.