Omicron Variant Poses Very High Global Risk; Says WHO
- The Covid omicron variant is likely to spread and poses a “very high” global risk.
- Surges of Covid infections could have “severe consequences” for some areas.
- The WHO issued a technical brief to its 194 member states.
United States: The omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization, which warned that surges of Covid infections caused by the variant of concern could have “severe consequences” for some areas. “Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said in its risk assessment on Monday within a technical brief to its 194 member states.
First of all, experts don’t yet know just how transmissible the variant is and whether any increases in infections are related to immune escape, intrinsic increased transmissibility, or both. Secondly, there is uncertainty over how well vaccines protect against infection, transmission and clinical disease of different degrees of severity, and death. And third of all, there is uncertainty over whether the variant presents with a different severity profile. The WHO has said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
Covid symptoms linked to omicron have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain. It’s very important to remember that, so far, there have only been a small number of cases reported around the world in several southern African countries and a smattering of cases in the U.K., France, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong, but none yet in the U.S. Covid vaccines have greatly helped to reduce severe infection, hospitalization and death, so new variants are closely monitored to assess whether, and how, they might impact the efficacy of vaccines. The WHO urged countries to put in place mitigation measures to prepare for a possible increase in Covid caseloads “and associated pressure on the health system.