Sooo if you somehow forgot that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, here’s a COVID-19 development that will drag you back to earth — Omicron XE. That name has raised a few eyebrows for certain reasons but the potential threat it brings upon the world again is very real. If you’ve been lulled to the semblance of a “post-COVID new-normal” for the past few weeks thanks to lax restrictions, you might want to stay on your guard for the Omicron XE. Is it contagious? Is it deadly? Why does it sound like it’s named after an iPhone? Here’s what we know so far.
What is Omicron XE?
Some more details of the Omicron XE recombinant variant. It is a combination of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2, and is ~10% more transmissible than BA.2. https://t.co/xhRt1RmDiZ
— Professor Adrian Esterman (@profesterman) April 4, 2022
No, it’s not a completely new COVID variant. Omicron XE is a recombinant variant, meaning it’s a hybrid of two other strains. In this case, the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron variants. XE was first detected in the UK last January and has infected over 600 individuals as of March 22, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Although authorities were a bit alarmed, that figure is just less than 1% of the country’s millions of COVID cases.
It’s more transmissible than Omicron
NEWS UPDATE. The DOH says it is constant coordination with the WHO following a reported case of Omicron XE – a recombinant of Omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 – in Bangkok, Thailand. @rapplerdotcom
— Bonz Magsambol (@bnzmagsambol) April 4, 2022
XE is said to be 10% more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant causing it to spread faster and infect more people. We once thought the original Omicron strain was the “most transmissible” variant of COVID yet but now it turns out that wasn’t the case.
If you recall last January 13, the Philippines recorded 34,021 cases, the highest single-day tally since the pandemic began. It was largely due to the high transmissibility of Omicron. However, the bright side to Omicron is that the effects are not as severe as Alpha or Delta. XE is the same — those infected have not reported severe cases.
However, XE could potentially be a new variant. While there is no cause for concern just yet, WHO said they are closely monitoring Omicron XE to determine if it should be classified as a new variant. More research is needed to see how XE behaves.
🚨 New Omicron variant ‘XE’ detected in UK, experts say ‘too ‘soon to say’ how contagious it is
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) April 2, 2022
Has it been detected elsewhere?
1. Malaysia has not recorded any cases of the Omicron XE variant so far.
Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said MOH is studying the characteristics of the variant, which was reported in Thailand and the UK.
WHO said the variant may be more transmissible than any strain of Covid-19. pic.twitter.com/AnWkcPUm5P
— BFM News (@NewsBFM) April 5, 2022
Just this April, Thailand reported its first case of Omicron XE. According to their Public Health Commission vice-chairman Chalermchai Boonyaleephan, the person only suffered mild symptoms and has since recovered. However, they’re convinced that XE will now spread in the country after that breach. Neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines have been on high alert since.
Are there other recombinant variants we need to watch out for?
With three Omicron-related recombinants getting assigned Pango lineages I’m going to write a thread covering:
– What are recombinants?
– Why are we seeing so many now?
– What exactly are the new lineages XD, XE and XF?
– How concerned should we be about them? pic.twitter.com/PrPGaUSs3p
— Tom Peacock (@PeacockFlu) March 16, 2022
Unfortunately, there are more recombinant variants scientists around the world are keeping an eye on. These are XD and XF, recombinants of the Delta and Omicron variants. The good news is, it’s not as alarming as the rapid spread of XE.
During the Department of Health (DOH) briefing, Dr. Edsel Salvana said that the Philippines’ focus is on XE. “‘Yung mas concerning ngayon is ‘yung XE kasi mukhang may about a 10% growth advantage na nakita nila and may na-report na na isang case sa Thailand. Now, itong mga recombinants na ‘to, kung meron silang survival advantage, pwede silang lumaganap at kumalat sa iba’t ibang places,” he said.
Are vaccines effective against Omicron XE?
Omicron XE will not change the basic fact that vaccines are excellent at preventing severe COVID.
We must *not* react to Omicron XE by banning flights or prolonging quarantine durations for incoming travellers.
— Dr Siddharth Sridhar (@sid8998) April 1, 2022
Dr. Salvana is almost certain of the possibility that XE could reach Filipinos — especially now that all our borders are open — but XE shouldn’t “dodge vaccines any worse than BA.1 or BA.2.”
“‘Yung bakuna natin should be effective against the XE to the same level as the BA.2. ‘Yun nga, meron tayong problems with breakthrough infections, ‘yung efficacy for preventing infections is only about 30-40%, but the protection against severe disease is still pretty high mga 80% plus,” he added.
But should you be alarmed?
Guys, in regards to XE. Let me save you some time AND some stress. NO, it is NOT a new VOC. NO, it is not a WHO Greek letter VOC lineage. It’s a PANGO name. It is an Omicron RECOMBINANT. But, guess what? At the end of the day it is STILL Omicron. Here’s what you should know. 🧵
— Chise 🧬🧫🦠💉 (@sailorrooscout) April 4, 2022
For now, no. Thankfully, Omicron XE is not a new COVID-19 variant nor is it a variant of concern. It’s simply a recombinant of the Omicron strain, a sub-virus. The fact that it’s named XE means there have been XA, XB, XC, and XD before it and none of those have been cause for concern. Since COVID-19’s existence, experts have discovered dozens of sub-viruses. It’s normal for a virus to crop up and sometimes disappear on its own. However, we should not let our guard down. Being lax about health and safety protocols might cost us in the long run.
Some people are comparing it to an iPhone release
What. The. FUCK. is Omicron XE. THIS IS WHY WE SHOULD’VE TAKEN COVID MORE SERIOUSLY. Too many of us we’re too lazy to give a shit and now Covid is really out here releasing new variants like IPHONES. pic.twitter.com/l6HG7LKhK5
— representing the regrets (@representingth2) April 4, 2022
Over on social media, people are making light of the situation instead of freaking out. Many are poking fun at the name “XE” saying it sounds like something Apple would name it’s latest iPhone release. It’s a solid comparison seeing that iPhones are releasing new models and products almost as fast as we discover new COVID strains.
im sorry but what’s with the new covid variant , Omicron XE ??? Iphone yarn ? pic.twitter.com/VIPhyR1F9B
— chie ☁️ (@yjmlouvcart) April 4, 2022
Omicron XE Max (2022) 256GB Space Gray Model https://t.co/GHHOJy9K1M
— Tets Makino 🌷 Leni Kiko Diokno Colmenares Zubiaga (@TetsMakino) April 4, 2022
What’s the camera MP though?
The Omicron XE includes the A15 Bionic chip, a triple lens camera system, Truetone XDR display and additional 24 hours of battery life. https://t.co/w3PUV373Ws
— P .ᜃᜒ. B (@pulangbatikan) April 4, 2022
Is it available in Power Mac?
Susunod na ang Omicron XE 5G. https://t.co/iOvwEzD87N
— Bike Barista for #LeniKikoTeam2022 (@ecliptiko) April 4, 2022
5G for it’s ability to spread rapidly.
There are already so many variants to choose from. Now we have Omicron XE. I just hope they never release Omicron XE Pro. pic.twitter.com/Mz8AZijrpv
— Euceph (@euniceuceph) April 5, 2022
We hope this is the last variant and recombinant variant.
Everything is still the same
Even if another variant of concern pops up within the next few months, the method of curbing the spread is still the same. Make sure you encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated and take booster shots for their safety. The COVID-19 vaccines are proven to lower the risk of contracting severe COVID-19 and it prevents hospitalization too. Also make sure you keep wearing masks every time you go outside. Sanitize your hands and wash them properly whenever you can. We might have been lax the past few weeks but Omicron XE is a sobering reminder that we’re still living in the middle of a pandemic.