The World Health Organization warns that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus poses a “very high” global risk due to the possibility that it spreads more easily and may withstand vaccines and immunity in people infected with previous strains.
In a technical note released Sunday, the WHO warned its 194 member states that the many mutations in the new variant “could confer potential for immune evasion and possibly a transmissibility benefit”, and therefore “the likelihood of an infection. Global potential further spread of omicron is high. “
It indicates that the risk to vulnerable populations – especially in countries with low vaccination rates – could be “substantial”.
However, he warns that there is still considerable uncertainty about the virus, including how easily it spreads, how dangerous it is, its ability to evade vaccines and immunity, its response to diagnostic tests and treatments, and even its consequences. specific symptoms.
“The vaccines were designed, basically, to keep people from going to the hospital, and they got up and they did it really well,” Dr Margaret Harris, public health doctor and public health officer, said Monday. -Who speaks. . “So we really need to know if this particular version is going to change that picture.”
The omicron variant was first reported last week in South Africa, where infections attributed to the new variant have risen sharply in recent days. Since then, it has been found in more than a dozen countries, including Botswana, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong.
So far, no deaths related to the omicron variant have been reported. Meanwhile, many countries, including the United States, have reimposed some travel restrictions in an attempt to stem the spread of the new variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to announce a case of omicron in the United States, although White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said he believed it was inevitable at some point.
The WHO warned on Sunday of possible “further outbreaks of COVID-19, which could have serious consequences, depending on a number of factors, including where the outbreaks may take place.”
The brief advises countries to improve surveillance and sequencing efforts and accelerate vaccine coverage against COVID-19. He also advises renewing social distancing restrictions and contact tracing.
“In anticipation of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and the associated strain on the health care system, ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and that resources are needed. Necessary healthcare is in place to respond to potential flare-ups, ”he advises.
Speaking on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Global health security is too important to be left to chance, goodwill, shifting geopolitical currents or special corporate interests and of shareholders “.
“Omicron demonstrates why the world needs a new pandemic deal,” he said, noting that the emergence of the new variant shows how “perilous and precarious” the current situation is. [Copyright 2021 NPR]