Omicron, the newly detected coronavirus variant, poses a “very high” global risk said the World Health Organization on Monday, and is likely to spread internationally that could have severe consequences in some areas.
GENEVA, Switzerland — No deaths caused by the new variant has been reported yet, and further research is needed to learn more on the Omicron’s potential to resist vaccines and immunity induced by previous infections.
“Omicron’s very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we’re done with Covid-19, it’s not done with us,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a special session of the World Health Assembly.
The United Nations agency urges its 194 member-states to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups “as rapidly as possible” as Covid-19 cases are anticipated to increase due to the new variant.
“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said.
“The overall global risk is assessed as very high.”
CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Scientist Richard Hatchett, said that Omicron’s emergence had fulfilled predictions that transmission of the virus in areas with low vaccination rates would speed its evolution.
“The inequity that has characterized the global response has now come home to roost,” Hatchett says, noting that Botswana and South Africa had fully vaccinated less than a quarter of their population.
The WHO’s advice came as more countries reported cases of the new variant, which was first detected in South Africa last week. The Scottish government said Monday that six cases of Omicron had been identified in Scotland.
On the other hand, health officials in Portugal said the country detected 13 cases among team members of a professional soccer club.
The variant has now been detected in the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Hong Kong, among other countries. (JE/Headline PH)