WHO, US scientists say Omicron no worse than different virus variants

GENEVA, Dec 8, 2021 (AFP) – The Omicron variant seems to be no worse than different coronavirus strains, high scientists from the WHO and the USA informed AFP, whereas cautioning that extra analysis is required to guage its severity.

The hopeful assessments got here as world concern grew over the closely mutated variant, which has pressured dozens of countries to re-impose border restrictions and raised the potential of a return to economically punishing lockdowns.

Whereas it’s possible extra transmissible than earlier variants, “the preliminary information don’t point out that that is extra extreme,” the World Well being Group‘s second-in-command informed AFP.

“In actual fact, if something, the course is in the direction of much less severity,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan mentioned in an interview on Tuesday, insisting although that extra analysis was wanted.

Ryan additionally mentioned it was “extremely unlikely” that Omicron may absolutely sidestep protections offered by current Covid vaccines.

“We have now extremely efficient vaccines which have proved efficient towards all of the variants thus far, when it comes to extreme illness and hospitalisation… There’s no cause to anticipate that it wouldn’t be so” for Omicron, he added, pointing to preliminary information from South Africa, the place the pressure was first reported.

Nonetheless, Ryan acknowledged that it was attainable that current vaccines would possibly show much less efficient towards Omicron, which counts greater than 30 mutations on the spike protein that dots the floor of the coronavirus and permits it to invade cells.


High US scientist Anthony Fauci echoed the WHO’s view, saying Omicron didn’t seem worse than prior strains based mostly on early indications — and was presumably milder.

The brand new variant is “clearly extremely transmissible,” very possible extra so than Delta, the present dominant world pressure, Fauci informed AFP.

“It nearly definitely isn’t extra extreme than Delta,” he mentioned. “There’s some suggestion that it would even be much less extreme.”

However he famous it was essential to not over-interpret the info as a result of the populations being adopted skewed younger and had been much less prone to develop into hospitalised. Extreme illness can even take weeks to develop.

“Then, as we get extra infections all through the remainder of the world, it would take longer to see what’s the extent of severity.”

World concern 

The detection of the primary Omicron instances two weeks in the past coincided with surges in an infection numbers the world over, and the variant added gas to issues a few world Covid resurgence.

Omicron has thus far been present in 57 nations all over the world, the WHO mentioned. No deaths have but been related to the variant.

Ryan confused the necessity for all nations to assist detect Omicron instances and analysis its behaviour.

“The extra and higher information we acquire within the subsequent two weeks, (the higher possibilities) of a transparent conclusion concerning the implications of this variant,” he mentioned.

As European Union well being ministers met Tuesday to search out methods to coordinate their response, Norway introduced it would tighten restrictions to fight its surge.

A suspected outbreak of Omicron final week amongst dozens of partygoers who had all been vaccinated led to new restrictions in and across the capital Oslo.

Neighbouring Sweden additionally mentioned Tuesday it will launch a sequence of anti-Covid measures.

Elsewhere in Europe, Poland mentioned that from December 15, it would limit the variety of folks allowed in church buildings, eating places and theatres, and make vaccination obligatory for healthcare staff, lecturers and the army from March 1.

Rising frustration 

Whereas the optimistic preliminary assessments of Omicron helped elevate the temper, particularly amongst world markets as fears of one other financial downturn subsided, the variant’s emergence has highlighted that the battle towards the pandemic is much from over.

Covid-19 has formally killed greater than 5.2 million folks all over the world because it was first declared in late 2019, though the true toll is prone to be a number of instances increased.

Scientists and well being specialists say vaccinations and continued social distancing stay key to defeating all variants of the virus, together with Omicron.

“The virus hasn’t modified its nature,” Ryan mentioned. “The principles of the sport are nonetheless the identical.”

However vaccine necessities have sparked resistance in lots of nations, both due to misinformation and conspiracy theories or the financial and logistical affect of such mandates.

Round 4,000 folks protested in Brussels on Tuesday towards a plan by the Belgian authorities to make vaccines obligatory for well being staff from early subsequent yr.

“We’re in favour of vaccination, however why solely well being staff?” mentioned nurse Perrine.

“As a result of everybody should be vaccinated, it’s everybody or nobody.”

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