Amidst rising fear over the Omicron variant of Coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a new report on the new variant providing insights about its transmissibility, clinical severity, incidence, and potential impact of already available Coronavirus vaccines. The WHO, significantly in its latest update, noted that in view of the pre-dominant circulation of the Delta variant in many countries, it is early to determine the potential impact the Omicron variant would have on the global epidemiology of Coronavirus, the Indian Express reported.
Spread of Omicron variant
The WHO report noted that fresh cases of Coronavirus have continued to rise in South Africa where Omicron variant was first reported. The WHO noted that the cases of Coronavirus in South Africa have more than doubled in the week between November 29 and December 5 as compared to the previous week. More menacingly, the positivity rate in the country has increased to a whopping 22.4 percent in December as compared to 1.2 percent in the beginning of November. The report noted that a similar surge has been witnessed in countries like Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho among others. However, the global health body also acknowledged that the coverage of Coronavirus vaccines in these countries ranging from 12 percent in Namibia to 26 percent in Lesotho.
The WHO concluded that relaxation in Covid-19 protocols, increased testing due to Omicron scare, low vaccination coverage along with plausible high transmission due to the new variant may have led to an increase in the number of cases.
Is the Omicron variant more transmissible?
The WHO noted that the new variant appears to have a growth advantage over other circulating variants however it remains unclear whether that will lead to increased transmissibility of Coronavirus. The WHO also endorsed the recent forecast done by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which revealed that Omicron might become the dominant variant in Europe by January 1, 2022 even if 1 percent of the current cases are caused by the new variant.
How severe is the infection caused by the Omicron variant?
WHO highlighted that there is limited data at this stage to determine any changes that may have occurred in disease severity due to the Omicron variant. However, it noted that all 212 detected cases of Omicron variant in the European Union (EU) region happened to be asymptomatic or mild. While the health body said that hospital admission in South Africa has increased by 82 percent the past week, it remains uncertain if all hospitalisations were related to infection caused by the new variant. The WHO also clarified that even if the severity of the Omicro variant happens to be less than that of Delta variant, hospitalisation is likely to increase with a surge in Coronavirus cases.
Can Omicron variant cause Coronavirus re-infection?
The WHO said that as per its preliminary analysis it found that the mutations present in the Omicron variant may reduce neutralising activity of antibodies among people who have already recovered from Coronavirus previously.