The story of the Omicron variant began a week ago, when researchers in southern Africa detected a version of the coronavirus that carried 50 mutations.
When scientists look at coronavirus mutations, they worry about three things: Is the new variant more contagious? Is it going to cause people to get sicker? And how will the vaccines work against it?
We explore when we will get the answers to these three questions, and look at the discovery of the variant and the international response to it.
Guest: Apoorva Mandavilli, a reporter covering science and global health for The New York Times.
Background reading:South African scientists have said that while they need more data to be sure, existing treatments and precautions seem to be effective against the Omicron variant.Mutations can work together to make a virus more fearsome, but they can also cancel one another out. This phenomenon, called epistasis, is why scientists are reluctant to speculate on Omicron.Almost two years into the pandemic, finger-pointing, lack of coordination, sparse information and fear are once again influencing policy.
For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.