Emergency. Omicron spreads wildly according to biostatisticians.

“Wear an N-95 Respirator and ship millions of masks and jabs to Africa,” say some angry doctors who have warned for two years that “an immune-evasion SARS-CoV-2 variant would be just around the corner if the world is not fully vaccinated, fast,” they say.

Simple: “Prevent  Omicron variant from entering human bodies. Travel bans are not a solution, they are draconian, simplistic knee-jerks,” say a few medical experts who agree with a few African officials.

One such official is South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla who said to a press conference that, “We believe that some of the reactions have been unjustified…” adding that he thinks leaders banning travel to Africa are seeking a scapegoat.

It was South Africa that reported the genomics of the dangerous new variant that initially seems to have more than thirty significant yet unusual mutations to enhance its effectiveness in taking over human bodies.

“Omicron discovery explains what we have been seeing in a strange pattern of new infections,” say CSPaC biostatisticians in Singapore.

“Preventing this Omicron coronavirus variant from entering human bodies is the essence of the challenge, and the essence of this emergency situation response. It isn’t more complicated than that. Our data suggests that banning travelers is not helpful. Wearing N-95 masks for self protection and taking all standard infectious disease precautions currently in place is the correct way ahead,” suggests Kathy Poon a biostatistician, infectious disease researcher, and medical practitioner assigned to an internship with the Civil Society Partners against COVID-19 tracking team in Singapore. 

“I shudder when I see people wearing crappy masks under their noses. Epidemiologists all say wearing a fitted N-95 mask which filters nearly all pathogens, worn with even modest eye protection of some kind,  is the way ahead because the Omicron coronavirus is airborne and infects the nose and the eyes. Do not let it in,” says Ms. Poon

“For this Omicron emergency, encourage families wear an N-95 respirator. Governments should stop their nationalistic stupidity that has created this dearth of vaccines in Africa and ship millions of masks and jabs to Africa,” says regional medical director for a global NGO, Dr. Nassima al Amouri.

Many Hospitals around the world fear being overwhelmed Dr. Nassima al Amouri says her medical teams fear that the highly modified Omicron spike protein which the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to attach to human body cells poses a significant mass-infection threat to the capabilities of hospitals around the world. Photo credit: Source Supplied. Art/Cropping/Enhancement: Rosa Yamamoto / Feminine-Perspective Magazine

“Regions where vaccines are unavailable will be developing-grounds for even worse variants that will rapidly infect the world,” she said.

“Until now, African COVID-19 cases were dropping after a devastating wave from May through September, killing the unvaccinated through that period and into October, among the worst active cases. Then came Omicron and we do not know what is next,” says Dr. Fred Harris of the Civil Society Partners against COVID-19 tracking team in Singapore.

“Inoculation levels in Africa are very low, hence I would suggest that an immediate enhancement in vaccine donation and distribution, fix that problem. Here is an instance wherein China’s help is needed. Millions of KN-95 masks are needed in Africa because the certified-GB2626.2006-compliant versions are the most popular and least expensive and easiest to ship,” he said. “But they must be certified because most of the KN-95 knockoffs  coming from China are pure junk.”

“China has already been helping countries that way for the past year and a half. At the same time, people in every walk of life need to learn how to wear respirators; re-use them safely; and dispose of them safely in an environmentally copacetic manner,” Dr. Harris stressed.

“This has been a horrific failing of the World Health Organization and governments. If the public effectively wore respirators, medical workers would not need so many, but let’s face it, pharmaceuticals make mega billions and mask makers don’t and thus don’t have an effective lobbyist army,” Dr. Harris added, cynically.

Africa COVID-19 Case history. This graph shows Africa COVID-19 Case history since the beginning of the pandemic. Biostatisticians are warning that Africa is at risk of a catastrophic “next wave” and that each wave has been exponentially worse than the last and there has been no respite from the infectious disease as few peple on the continent are vaccinated. The latest report of Africa’s CDC is here. Courtesy: Civil Society Partners against COVID-19

Read if you wish: Africa CDC COVID-19 Brief

In naming the Omicron, the World Health Organization (WHO) asked countries to:

  • enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.
  • report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism, and
  • where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics,” says a WHO  release.

“Learning to properly protect oneself against Omicron is imperative to stop its spread. The second best addition to a vaccine program is using a respirator mask that fits tightly around the face and filters 95% of airborne pathogenic particles,” explained Dr. Nassima al Amouri who ordinarily wears a respirator, pandemic or not, because of the nature of her work.

 This mask will protect wearers who have done a proper fit-test. Here is how to don and doff your N95 respirator mask. Most commonly used for Influenza prevention, these masks are effective according to all the experts in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, influenza, swine flu and avian flu transmission from person to person. The mask is warn as hand hygiene, social distancing and good health practices are adhered.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration,Respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings and are a subset of N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs), often referred to as N95s. They are tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency (particulate filtration efficiency and bacterial filtration efficiency), flammability and biocompatibility.”

The OSHA directive indicates that a respirator can be reused as long as it “maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged or soiled.”

“But never touch the outside of a used mask say all health care professionals,” warns Dr. Anderson of The RINJ Foundation.  “Many health workers spray their masks with a disinfectant for overnight storage in a zip-lock bag but this is contraindicated for safety reasons,” he added. “It’s more hazard than help. Please do not do this. Alcohol damages the electrostatic capture regions of the mask and the bag is a growing environment for mold, bacteria and other things nobody wants to wear. And please share a video with the public on how to wear a respirator, because I don’t want to be quoted saying ‘wear a respirator’ without explaining how,” he added with a smile on Zoom.

Indicated for most people who are in need of both self protection and protecting others, here is the 1860-N95 which works for civilian street-wear 1860S N95 Particulate Respirator Spec Sheet

A glance at the Variants of Concern, Omicron (B.1.1.529, GR/484A) is the worst.

SARS2 Variants of Concern (VOC)

WHOPangoGISAIDNextstrain1st SampleDesignation
AlphaB.1.1.7GRY (formerly GR/501Y.V1)20I/S:501Y.V1United Kingdom, Sep 202018 Dec 2020
BetaB.1.351GH/501Y.V220H/S:501Y.V2South Africa, May 202018 Dec 2020
GammaP.1GR/501Y.V320J/S:501Y.V3Brazil, Nov 202011 Jan 2021
DeltaB.1.617.2G/452R.V321A/S:478KIndia, Oct 2020VOI: 4 Apr 2021VOC: 11 May 2021
OmicronB.1.1.529GR/484A21KMultiple Nov-2021VUM: 24-Nov-2021
VOC: 26-Nov-2021