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Omicron coronavirus variant could have major impact on the course of pandemic: WHO

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Dec 09, 2021
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There was initial evidence that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant, says Ghebreyesus

The Omicron variant of coronavirus could have a major impact on the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation.

“The Omicron variant has now been reported in 57 countries, and we expect that number to continue growing. Certain features of Omicron, including its global spread and large number of mutations, suggest it could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic,” World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

However, according to the WHO Chief, the exact impact of the variant is yet to be known.

There has been a consistent picture of the rapid increase in transmission of the variant. However, the exact rate of increase relative to other variants remains difficult to quantify, Ghebreyesus said.

“In South Africa, the number of Omicron cases is increasing quickly. However, Omicron was detected when transmission of Delta was very low, so it had little competition. It will therefore be important to monitor carefully what happens around the world, to understand whether Omicron can outcompete Delta,” he said.

The WHO chief further called on countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing, adding that existing diagnostics both PCR and antigen-based rapid tests work for the variant.

He further added that there was initial evidence that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant.

“Emerging data from South Africa suggest increased risk of re-infection with Omicron, but more data are needed to draw firmer conclusions. There is also some evidence that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta, but again, it’s still too early to be definitive,” he said.

Ghebreyesus further urged countries to accelerate vaccine coverage and avoid “ineffective and discriminatory” travel bans.

Published on December 09, 2021

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