Omicron spreading at an unprecedented rate, warns World Health Organization

WION Web Team
Geneva, Switzerland Published: Dec 14, 2021, 10:50 PM(IST)

Passengers wearing protective masks enter an underground railway station, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Stockholm, Sweden Photograph:( Reuters )

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The WHO said there were early signs that vaccinated and previously infected people would not build enough antibodies to ward off infection from Omicron

The World Health Organization has said that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading at an unprecedented rate.

"Seventy-seven countries have now reported cases of Omicron, and the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn't been detected yet," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

"Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant," he added.

Considerable uncertainties surround Omicron, first detected last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong.

Researchers around the world are rushing to figure out what the variant will mean for the coronavirus pandemic now well into its second year. 

Also read | 'Red list is less effective': UK to lift travel ban on 11 African countries

The WHO said there were early signs that vaccinated and previously infected people would not build enough antibodies to ward off infection from Omicron, resulting in high transmission rates and "severe consequences".

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Corroborating the WHO's assessment, University of Oxford researchers published a lab analysis on Monday that registered a substantial fall in neutralising antibodies against Omicron in people who had had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Also see | Omicron chaos: A list of countries that have reported cases of new variant

The WHO cited preliminary evidence that the number of people getting reinfected with the virus has increased in South Africa.

"Even if the severity is potentially lower than for the Delta variant, it is expected that hospitalisations will increase as a result of increasing transmission. More hospitalisations can put a burden on health systems and lead to more deaths," it said.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the country rose over the past two weeks from 8.07 new cases per 100,000 people on Novemeber 29 to 34.37 new cases per 100,000 people on December 13

However, Some experts have cautioned that it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the outcomes from omicron since the variant is still quite new and hospitalisations can lag weeks behind infections.

(With inputs from agencies)

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