The World Health Organisation is warning nations against the new COVID-19 Omicron variant which was first found in South Africa and poses a ‘very high’ risk globally.
WHO expressed that the new strain is a ‘highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations… some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility’. On a technical note, they added: ‘The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high’.
At the time of writing, no deaths connected with the Omicron variant have been registered, but if the variant spreads more easily it will spark more cases and place more pressure on health systems and thus, more deaths.
WHO warned: ‘If another major surge of COVID-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe’ and added that ‘the overall global risk related to the new VOC (variant of concern) Omicron is assessed as very high.’
The organisation urged countries to enhance their surveillance to get a clear overview of where and how fast the variant is spreading. It also pledged for accelerated vaccination, especially among vulnerable people who are yet to receive any jabs.
Though several countries have imposed travel restrictions on South Africa, Britain, Indonesia, Kuwait, Holland, Qatar, among others, WHO regional director Matshidiso Moeti remarked, ‘With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity’.