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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Sun, 23 Jan 2022, 3:59 PM

 

“Don’t panic over Omicron”: WHO says there is much to learn about the new variant

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The World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist yesterday urged the people not to panic over the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and said it is too early to say if COVID-19 vaccines would have to be modified to fight it.
 
Speaking in an interview at the Reuters Next conference, Soumya Swaminathan also said it was impossible to predict if Omicron would become a dominant strain.
 
Omicron has gained a foothold in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe and has reached seven of the nine provinces of South Africa, where it was first identified. Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the variant out.
 
Swaminathan said that the right response was to be ready.
 
“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” she said.
 
“Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”
 
Much remains unknown about Omicron, which has been detected in more than two dozen countries as parts of Europe grapple with a wave of infections of the more familiar Delta variant.
 
“We need to wait, let’s hope it’s milder … but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Swaminathan said.
 
Australia became the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, a day after it was found in five US states.
 
Vaccines are the solution
 
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a United Nations (UN) briefing in Geneva earlier that vaccine makers should prepare for the likelihood of adjusting their products.
 
Ugur Sahin, CEO of Germany’s BioNTech, which makes COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer, told the Reuters Next conference the company should be able to adapt the shots relatively quickly.
 
Sahin also said current vaccines should continue to provide protection against severe disease, despite mutations.
 
WHO Western Pacific director Takeshi Kasai told a media briefing that vaccines were the solution and that border controls could only buy time.
 
“People should not only rely on border measures. It is important to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don’t have to change our approach.”
 
Kasai urged countries to fully vaccinate vulnerable groups and stick to preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
 
Almost 264 million people have been reported to be infected by COVID-19 since it was first detected in central China in late 2019 and 5.48 million people have died, according to a Reuters tally.
 
Vaccination rates vary from country to country but there are worrying gaps in poorer countries. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and once Asia’s COVID-19 epicentre, has fully inoculated only about 35% of its population.
 
Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said Omicron is likely to become the dominant variant globally within months, but at this stage, there is no evidence of it being s any more dangerous than Delta.
 
Measures in the US
 
In the US, the Biden administration announced measures to guard against the virus spreading. From Monday, international air travellers arriving in the US will have to have obtained a negative COVID-19 test within a day of travel.
 
“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” President Joe Biden said.
 
Fewer than 60% of the US population have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates among wealthy nations.
 
Aside from wreaking havoc in the travel industry, the clampdown has pounded financial markets and undermined major economies just as they were beginning to recover from the lockdowns triggered by Delta.
 
Bank of England policymaker Michael Saunders, who voted for an interest rate hike last month, said yesterday he wanted more information about Omicron before deciding how to vote this month.
 
“At present, given the new Omicron COVID-19 variant has only been detected quite recently, there could be particular advantages in waiting to see more evidence on its possible effects on public health outcomes and hence on the economy,” Saunders said in a speech.
 
Germany said it would bar the unvaccinated from all but essential businesses, and legislation to make vaccination mandatory would be drafted for early next year.
 
Several countries, including Britain and the US, were bringing forward plans to offer booster shots, but, like travel bans, they are controversial.
 
Many scientists say the way to stop the virus from spreading is to make sure poorer countries have access to vaccines, not to give blanket booster shots to people in richer countries.
 
 - Reuters
 
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DickyMe Yeah! Don't panic. It is W.H.O's fake news.
04/12/2021 2:19 PM
Tobby Nobody trust WHO anymore! When Omicron first appear, tell us its' too late to curb! Don't stop travellers coming in! Omicron is very infectious and so forth!
Now that it already spread to many countries, tell us not to panic!
04/12/2021 2:30 PM
Tobby And of those the usually no need face mask thingy! Only to tell us later to wear triple face mask!
04/12/2021 2:31 PM
gohkimhock Trump was right to blame WHO for slow response last year. Failure to act swiftly and giving a lot of mixed signals. Threatening to cut US funding to the world health governing body.
04/12/2021 2:44 PM
Tobby WHO is total joke! Tell us not to mix vaccine but later on say it's okay because more effective!
04/12/2021 2:51 PM
chinaman mix vax. correct, save?? better has benefit of doubt. Kui Lor cannot 100% trust....want to sell out tada laku vax?? over dose vax, whats the implication??
04/12/2021 2:56 PM
stockraider OMicron will takeover more deadly Delta mah!

Just like Delta tookover from Alpha & beta previously mah!
04/12/2021 3:07 PM


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