UNITED NATIONS/GENEVA: The World Health Organisation has said it is “not yet clear” whether the newly-detected coronavirus variant Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared to other variants, including the highly-transmissible and globally prevalent Delta variant.
“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants,” the WHO said.
It added that initial reported infections were among university studies – younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease – but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.
Amid concerns over the detection and transmissibility of B.1.1.529, designated by the WHO as a “variant of concern”, the global health organisation said on Sunday that even as researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available, “it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (eg more easily spreads from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta”.
It said the number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are under way to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.
On the severity of disease caused by the variant, the WHO said, “It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.”
It noted that preliminary data suggest that there are increasing rates of hospitalisation in South Africa “but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron”.
The WHO said all variants of Covid, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people and thus prevention is always the key.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Omicron variant reflects the threat of prolonged vaccine injustice. PTI