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Omicron Covid variant poses very high risk and likelihood of global spread

A doctor observes a Covid-19 patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit of a public hospital in Germany on April 28, 2021.

RONNIE HARTMANN | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The omicron Covid variant is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization, which warned on Monday that the surge in Covid infections caused by this variant of concern could have “serious consequences” for some … area.

“Given the mutations that can confer immune escape potential and possibly a transmission advantage, the likelihood of potential further global spread of Omicron is high,” WHO said in its risk assessment Monday during technical brief for 194 member countries

“Depending on these characteristics, future outbreaks of Covid-19 could occur, which could have serious consequences depending on a number of factors, including where the outbreaks may occur. Total global risk associated with a new VOC [variant of concern] Omicron is rated very highly, ”the UN health agency said.

WHO designated Option B.1.1.529, which was first seen in South Africa, as a “Option of Concern” last Friday.

In a report on Monday, he said it was “a highly divergent variant with many mutations … some of which are worrisome and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”

Known unknowns

However, there is still considerable uncertainty and uncertainty regarding this option, he said, echoing that sentiment on Monday.

First of all, experts do not yet know how transmitted this variant is, and whether any increase is due to immune escape, intrinsic increased transmissibility, or both.

Second, there is uncertainty about how well vaccines protect against infection, transmission and clinical disease of varying severity and death. And third, there is uncertainty as to whether a variant has a different severity profile.

WHO said it will take weeks to understand how this option might affect diagnostics, therapy and vaccines. However, preliminary evidence suggests that this strain has an increased risk of re-infection.

More details: A heavily mutated variant of Covid appears in southern Africa: here’s what we know so far

Early evidence suggests that this variant is spreading faster in South Africa than previous variants, and that this variant could start causing a new wave of infections. according to the analysis of the Financial Times

The omicron-related Covid symptoms were described by a South African physician as “extremely mild,” who first raised the alarm about the new strain.

More details: South African doctor who first noticed the omicron variant of Covid explains the symptoms

It is very important to remember that so far only a small number of cases have been reported worldwide – in a few countries in southern Africa and a small number of cases in the UK, France, Israel, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands. Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong, but none in the US so far, so it may take time to fully understand what specific symptoms, if any, can be attributed to the omicron variant on a broader scale.

It is too early to say what kind of health risk the new option poses at the global level; The international community has already witnessed several increasingly virulent Covid-19 strains, first with the “alpha variant” and then with the “delta variant”, which is currently the dominant strain worldwide.

Covid vaccines have greatly helped reduce severe infections, hospitalizations and deaths, so new options are being closely monitored to assess whether and how they can affect the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Mitigation plans

WHO urged Member States to intensify surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand options, including omicron, and to increase community testing to determine if omicron is circulating in the community.

He also called on member states to expedite Covid vaccinations “as soon as possible”, especially among high priority groups.

News of the new variant scared global markets last Friday, but European markets climbed on Monday morning. The region is already grappling with a spike in deltoid infections, which is putting pressure on health services in a number of countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.

WHO has called on countries to take mitigation measures to prepare for the potential increase in Covid cases and the associated pressure on the health system, to ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services, and the necessary health resources are available to respond to potential surges. “


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