Omicron variant can have major impact on course of pandemic: WHO
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that there is some evidence that shows that Omicron variant causes milder disease than Delta strain, but it’s still too early to be definitive.
Updated on 10 Dec 2021, 8:44 am
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefing media on COVID-19
The World Health Organisation said that the Omicron variant could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic.
"We are now starting to see a consistent picture of rapid increase in transmission, although for now the exact rate of increase relative to other variants remains difficult to quantify. Certain features of Omicron, including its global spread and large number of mutations, suggest it could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on Wednesday.
The WHO director general called on countries to accelerate vaccine coverage in the most at-risk populations.
"This virus is changing, but our collective resolve must not. We can save lives from Delta, right now; we can prevent Omicron becoming a global crisis, right now and we can prevent other variants emerging, right now," Ghebreyesus said, while urging all to get vaccinated.
The WHO director general added, "In South Africa, the number of Omicron cases is increasing quickly. However, Omicron was detected when transmission of Delta was very low, so it had little competition. It will therefore be important to monitor carefully what happens around the world, to understand whether Omicron can outcompete Delta. For that reason, we call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing."
Emerging data from South Africa suggest increased risk of re-infection with Omicron, but more data are needed to draw firmer conclusions.
The WHO director general also said that there is some evidence that shows that Omicron variant causes milder disease than Delta strain, but it’s still too early to be definitive.
Ghebreyesus added that the WHO is calling for more countries to submit more data to the organisation's Clinical Data Platform, using an updated case reporting form available on the website.