The The new Omicron variant The World Health Organization on Monday warned of a “very high” risk of infection that could have “serious consequences” globally.
The UN agency said the COVID-19 strain first detected in South Africa is a “highly variable variant with a large number of mutations…some of which are worrisome and may be associated with potential for immune escape and higher transmissibility.”
She added that “the overall global risk related to the new variant… is assessed as very high,” adding that Omicron “has an unprecedented number of sudden mutations, some of which are worrisome for their potential impact on the course of the epidemic.”
The World Health Organization – which called Omicron a “variable of concern” – urged its 194 member states to speed up vaccination of high-priority groups and “ensure that mitigation plans are in place” to maintain essential health services in anticipation of a surge in disease numbers.
So far, no deaths linked to the new variant have been reported, and the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus said that it Symptoms ‘unusual but mild’ in healthy patients.
However, the scientists emphasized that more research is needed to assess the strain’s ability to evade protection provided by previous vaccines and infections, the agency said.
“An increase in cases, regardless of a change in severity, may place enormous demands on health care systems and may lead to increased morbidity and mortality,” the WHO said.
“The presence of multiple mutations of the receptor-binding domain spike protein suggests that Omicron may have a high potential for immune escape from antibody-mediated protection. However, the potential for immune escape from cellular immunity is difficult to predict.”
But despite the alarming assessment, the agency warned against imposing travel bans, amid fears that bans on travel from countries where new variants have been discovered for the first time could be unfair and discourage monitoring.
“With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, the travel ban targeting Africa is attacking global solidarity,” WHO regional director Machidiso Moeti was quoted as saying by AFP.
An increasing number of countries have already imposed travel restrictions on South Africa, including the United States, since the alternative was first reported to the World Health Organization on November 24 from South Africa.
Since then Omicron has rapidly spread throughout the world.
On Monday, six cases were confirmed in the Glasgow and Lanarkshire regions of Scotland, According to CNN. Before Sunday, the UK had reported three cases, all in England.
In Australia, there are five confirmed cases – four in the state of New South Wales and one in the Northern Territory, the network reported.
On Monday, the health authorities in Portugal said that 13 players in the Lisbon-based SAD Belenenses football team had tested positive, according to CNN. Infections account for all Portuguese Omicron cases identified so far.
Health officials said during a press briefing on Monday, in Hong Kong, that the third case of the variant was a 37-year-old man who had traveled from Nigeria.
He received two doses of the Moderna vaccine, Hong Kong Minister of Food and Health Sophia Chan said, adding that “our current system is robust and also able to stop any transmission.”
The variant has also been registered in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and the Netherlands.
Some good news also emerged on Monday, with one of South Africa’s top infectious disease experts saying on Monday that current vaccines may be effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalization from Omicron.
“Based on what we know and how other variables of concern interact with vaccine immunity, we can expect that we will continue to see high efficacy in hospitalization and acute illness, and that protection from vaccines is likely to remain strong,” Abdul Karim said at a press conference.