Coronavirus Omicron is believed to be the most infectious yet because it binds better to human receptors than Delta. Photograph:( AFP )
The global health body said that Omicron has been identified in 89 countries
The World Health Organisation on Saturday said that the Omicron variant of Covid virus is spreading “significantly faster” than Delta variant, with a doubling time of 1.5 to 3 days.
The global health body said that Omicron—which has been identified as variant of concern— is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity and added that the new Covid strain has been identified in 89 countries.
In its ‘Enhancing Readiness for Omicron (B.1.1.529): Technical Brief and Priority Actions for Member States’ report on Friday, the WHO said that given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace Delta where community transmission occurs.
"Omicron is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity and it remains uncertain to what extent the observed rapid growth rate can be attributed to immune evasion, intrinsic increased transmissibility or a combination of both," it said.
"As of 16 December 2021, the Omicron variant has been identified in 89 countries across all six WHO regions. Current understanding of the Omicron variant will continue to evolve as more data becomes available," it added.
However, the WHO pointed out that there is a limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron and that more data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.
The overall threat posed by Omicron largely depends on how transmissible the variant is; how well vaccines and prior infection protect against infection, transmission, clinical disease and death; how virulent the variant is compared to other variants; and how populations understand these dynamics, perceive risk and follow control measures, including public health and social measures, it said.
(With inputs from agencies)