HEALTH Minister Sylvia Masebo says three sars-cov2 omicron variants have been detected in Zambia.

Speaking during a press briefing, Saturday, Masebo said two of the three cases involve people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and have a history of international travels.

“On the 3rd of December 2021, through our genomic sequencing laboratory at the University of Zambia school of veterinary medicine, [we] detected three sars-cov2 omicron variant isolates among samples of individuals who tested positive for covid-19 in the last one week. Omicron is a variant of the Sars-cov2 that the World Health Organisation designated as a ‘variant of concern’ on 26th November 2021. This means it has potential for increase in transmission, more severe disease for example, increased hospitalisation or deaths. Reduced effectiveness of treatment of vaccines or diagnostic detection failure,” said Masebo.

“The three cases of the omicron variants in Zambia were detected in the following individuals; a man living in Lusaka district with a history of recent international travel. This man is fully vaccinated and he is in stable condition displaying mild flu like symptoms and remains in isolation. The second person is a man who lives in Chibombo district with a history of recent international travel, he is currently without symptoms and is in isolation. This individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The third person is a woman in Lusaka district who initially presented herself as an outpatient at one of our hospitals in Lusaka with mild flu-like symptoms and was treated for COVID-19. She has no history of international travel and is unvaccinated for COVID-19.”

She clarified that the woman who tested positive to Omicron worked with the Trucks Drivers Union who may have a history of international travels.

She said it was not clear whether Omicron was easily spread from person to person.

“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants. The severity of disease following infection with the Omicron variant is yet to be understood. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron are different from those associated with other variants. However, preliminary evidence suggests that there may be increased risk of reinfection with Omicron compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited,” said Masebo.

“On a positive note, the current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. While further studies are underway to understand the potential impact of this variant, on existing counter measures, it is clear that vaccines continue to play a critical role in controlling the covid-19 pandemic.”