According to experts, the Omicron coronavirus variant is expected to spread internationally, offering a “extremely high” global risk of infection surges that could have “serious repercussions” in some regions and could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant.
World Health Organization (WHO) has asked its 194 member states to speed up vaccination of high-priority groups and “ensure mitigation plans are in place” to preserve key health services in the event of higher case numbers.
“Omicron has an extraordinary number of spike mutations,” according to the WHO, “some of which are worrying for their possible implications on the pandemic’s trajectory.”
“The overall global danger associated with the new variant has been determined to be extremely high.”
No deaths have been connected to Omicron so far, though more research is needed to determine Omicron’s ability to evade immunity established by vaccines and past infections, according to the report.
“Increased cases, regardless of severity, may place tremendous burden on health-care systems, resulting in adverse health outcomes. The impact on vulnerable groups would be significant, especially in nations where vaccination rates are low “it said.
The variant was initially reported to WHO on Nov. 24 by South Africa, where infection rates have been rapidly increasing.
It has subsequently spread over the world, with fresh cases being discovered in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia, despite more countries imposing travel restrictions in an attempt to isolate themselves. Japan said on Monday that it would close its borders to outsiders, joining Israel as the first country to do so.
Countries should apply a “risk-based approach to alter international travel measures in a timely manner,” according to the WHO’s latest guidance. It stated that more advice will be provided.
“The existence of numerous mutations in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein suggests that Omicron has a high chance of immune escape from antibody-mediated protection. Immune evasion potential from cell-mediated immunity, on the other hand, is more difficult to predict “It was stated.
“Overall, the amount of Omicron’s immunological escape potential is subject to considerable uncertainty.”
More information is expected in the coming weeks.
“In vaccinated individuals, COVID-19 instances and infections are anticipated, but in a low and foreseeable amount,” it noted.