The progression of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, dubbed Omicron, is of concern. Detected on November 11 in Botswana, this variant of the virus causing the Covid-19 pandemic is spreading from country to country and it is feared that it is more contagious or even more dangerous than those which preceded it.
What the rumor says
Several publications circulating on social networks suggest that the detection of this new variant is far from surprising. “Omicron was scheduled for May 2022”, “Keep believing in variants. They have been planned for a long time… ”, say Internet users on Facebook. These messages are accompanied by a calendar on which we read that the Delta variant has been ” spear “ in June 2021, and that Omicron was ” planned “ for May 2022. Beside, three logos appear: those of the WHO, the World Economic Forum and the American Johns-Hopkins University – whose work refers to the census of cases country by country since the start of the pandemic . In other very similar publications the abbreviation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation appears.
This “calendar” seeks to suggest that several health, economic and scientific authorities have planned the appearance of variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
WHY THIS IS WRONG
Official denials and absurd dates
This table, currently relayed on French-speaking social networks, is not new. It was already circulating last summer in English-speaking and Spanish-speaking anti-vaccine spheres, and its authenticity had been denied by several American or Spanish media. The version of the calendar circulating in France comes from a Spanish-speaking source, as shown by the abbreviations used (one for January, ” January “).
If the origin of this table remains unclear, most of the organizations cited in the document denied being at the origin. “This is not a WHO document”, a assured the organization to Reuters. For the World Economic Forum, “This is a false document”. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also claims that “chis allegations are false ”.
This alleged “Launch schedule” does not correspond to the reality of the appearance of variants. It just systematically aligns a variant (Delta, Epsilon, Zeta…) with a month of the year (June, July, August…). The first line begins when the WHO decided, at the end of May 2021, to rename the variants with letters of the Greek alphabet in order to avoid complex scientific names, and geographical designations. “Stigmatizing and discriminatory”.
The B.1.1.7 variant, first qualified as “British”, is now referred to as the Alpha variant, and the P.1 variant, known as “Brazilian”, has become Gamma. As for the Delta variant, it was initially identified in India in October 2020.
Cannot predict virus mutations
Since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated and led to the appearance of new variants. The most prevalent today, the Delta variant, has so far been considered the most contagious form of the coronavirus. But the arrival of the Omicron variant could change the situation, even if uncertainties remain about its contagiousness, the appearance of more serious symptoms or the level of protection offered by current vaccines, all questions that are being studied by the researchers. various specialists.
Internet users who relay this false picture seem to ignore the fact that viruses mutate naturally over time, in a random manner. And it is very difficult for specialists to predict the emergence of new variants. “The predictions regarding the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, in particular its changes in virulence, will always be marred by uncertainty., explained in May the British epidemiologist Ed Feil, in online media The Conversation. Even the most discerning of evolutionists cannot claim to be infallible in the face of the challenges posed by the random mutations of the RNA that make up the SARS-CoV-2 genome, the chaotic routes of transmission and spread of this virus, or the effects of forces. of natural selection. “