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At least 23 countries have now reported cases of Omicron Covid variant, says WHO Chief

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 02, 2021
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He further stated that it has taken this development "extremely seriously, and so should every country."

At least 23 countries have reported cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

"The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow," the WHO said at a press briefing.

The WHO Chief further said that the UN health body takes this development "extremely seriously, and so should every country."

"We are learning more all the time about Omicron, but there’s still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines," he said.

 

"Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions," the WHO Chief further added.

Ghebreyesus thanked Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting the variant and expressed concern over those countries being "penalised."

"It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing. We call on all countries to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the International Health Regulations," Ghebreyesus further said.

"This includes measures to delay or reduce the spread of the new variant, such as screening of passengers prior to travelling and/or upon arrival, or the application of quarantine to international travellers," he said.

Ghebreyesus warned against blanket travel bans imposed by various countries for certain "high risk" countries.

"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," the WHO chief warned.

"WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures, and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated immediately," he said.

Ghebreyesus also called on countries to not forget that we are already dealing with a "highly transmissible, dangerous variant" the Delta variant, which currently accounts for almost all cases globally.

"We need to use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do that, we will also prevent transmission and save lives from Omicron," he said.

"Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage, and very low testing – a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants," he added.

Ghebreyesus urged countries to ensure equitable access to vaccines, tests and therapeutics all over the globe.

The Omicron variant, which has been labelled as a variant of concern, has been found in countries including Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Canada and Denmark, as per reports.

Published on December 02, 2021

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