Omicron spreading faster than any other variant:WHO
Geneva, Dec 15
More than 77 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, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros said on Tuesday
Speaking to reporters, Tedros said Omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading at a rate he has not seen with any previous variant.
Tedros warned that countries must not dismiss Omicron as mild and can underestimate the virus at their own peril.
He said people are wrong to consider Omicron as causing mild disease and could overwhelm unprepared health systems.
"We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems," Tedros said in a press briefing.
Speaking on booster doses, Tedros said the emergence of Omicron has prompted some countries to roll out booster programmes against COVID-19 for their entire adult populations, even while we lack evidence for the effectiveness of boosters against this variant.
"WHO is concerned that such programmes will repeat the Covid vaccines hoarding we saw this year, and exacerbate inequity. It’s clear that as we move forward, boosters could play an important role, especially for those at highest risk of severe disease death."
Tedros further said the WHO is not against boosters but is against inequity and its main concern is to save lives everywhere and not only in few countries.
Earlier, the WHO has said that it expects an increase in the number of hospitalisations and fatalities related to Omicron coronavirus strain.
"As case numbers linked to a variant of concern increase globally, we expect the number of hospitalized cases and even deaths to be reported," the WHO said in a statement.
The UN health agency also said that more information is needed to fully understand the clinical picture of those infected with Omicron and WHO encourages countries to contribute to the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 clinical data Platform, according to Sputnik.
It comes as the WHO last week had shed light on features of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, including the extent to which it will spread, and the number of mutations in the newfound strain.
The UN-health agency had suggested that a new variant could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic, but it's still too early to say for sure.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, last week had said that highlighted "a consistent picture of the rapid increase in transmission" but he added that the exact rate of increase relative to other variants remains difficult to quantify. LiveMint