GENEVA: 13, DECEMBER, 2021: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday said the Omicron coronavirus variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy but causes mild illness.
South Africa's discovery of Omicron, which has a large number of mutations, last month prompted countries around the world to impose travel bans on southern African countries and reintroduce domestic restrictions in a bid to prevent spread.
South Africa reported Omicron to the WHO on November 24. Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech last week said three doses of their jabs were still effective against Omicron. The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as of December 9.
Early evidence suggests Omicron causes "a reduction in vaccine efficacy against infection and transmission", the WHO said in a technical brief.
"Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs," it added.
Earlier, on December 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday has said that the omicron variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported.
The WHO said it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to omicron, but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.
It could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it, the WHO warned.
The Organization's emergencies director Michael Ryan said that "We're going to get the answers that everybody out there needs."
On the other hand, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Kristalina Georgieva stated that "The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did."
"Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum," she said, adding that, "A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence."
A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the omicron was first reported on November 24, suggests "it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains."
Red Cross chief Francesca Rocca said that "The emergence of omicron was the “ultimate evidence” of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates."
"The incidence in those under-fives is now second-highest, and second only to the incidence in those over 60," said Wassila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
The Hawaii Health Department said, "In the US, two cases involved residents with no recent international travel history — showing omicron is already circulating inside the country."
"This is a case of community spread," the Department said. (04)