Don’t panic over new Covid variant: WHO

Speaking in an interview at the Reuters Next conference, World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it was impossible to predict if Omicron would become the dominant strain.
Thanks to Omicron, South Africa's daily Covid-19 infection rate is expected to quadruple to more than 10,000 by the end of this week.(AFP)
Thanks to Omicron, South Africa's daily Covid-19 infection rate is expected to quadruple to more than 10,000 by the end of this week.(AFP)
Published on Dec 04, 2021 07:12 AM IST
Copy Link
Agencies |

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist on Friday urged people not to panic over the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and said it was too early to say if vaccines would be need to be reworked.

Speaking in an interview at the Reuters Next conference, Soumya Swaminathan said it was impossible to predict if Omicron would become the dominant strain.

Swaminathan said Omicron “was highly transmissible” and cited data from South Africa showing the number of cases doubling daily. “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.”

Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to outcompete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”

We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder... but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Swaminathan said.

WHO’s emergencies director, Mike Ryan, said there was no evidence to support a change in vaccines to tailor them to Omicron. “Right now, we have highly effective vaccines that are working. We need to focus on getting them more equitably distributed. We need to focus on getting people most at risk vaccinated,” Ryan said at a social media event.

“I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said separately.

‘Some cases in people who came from Europe’

Botswana’s President Mokg-weetsi Masisi said some of the four diplomats who first tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant in the country had come from Europe, calling for a reversal of widespread travel bans imposed against southern African countries.

“The diplomats came from a number of countries ... and they passed through a number of countries to get to Botswana.”

He declined to disclose their nationalities, only saying “some had been to Europe and some had been elsewhere”.The country has so far reported more than 20 cases of the new variant.

Presidential spokesman Batlhalefi Leagajang told Reuters on Friday that Masisi will not disclose the countries the diplomats passed through, or their countries of origin, because “the virus should never be geo-politicised”.

Omicron spreads in United States, Australia

The US and Australia announced their first locally transmitted cases of the Omicron variant.

Nine cases have been confirmed in France and 10 in the United States. One case each in Hawaii and Minnesota involved residents with no recent international travel history - showing that Omicron is already circulating inside the country.

Australia on Friday, too, reported three students had tested positive for the variant.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Australian incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese debate on live television.

    Voting begins in tight race for next Australian Prime Minister

    Australian voters began casting their votes Saturday in a national election that might see the opposition Labor Party narrowly beat the ruling Liberal National coalition. Neither party is making predictions though, bearing in mind Prime Minister Scott Morrison's upset win in 2019 when he beat the Labor Party despite trailing them in the polls.

  • Other connections between Trump and Russia turned out to be true, as outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

     Hillary Clinton approved Trump-Russia leak to media, her campaign manager says

    Hillary Clinton personally signed off on a plan in 2016 to quietly pitch to the media the now-discredited theory that computer servers at Donald Trump's company had a secret communications link with a Russian bank, her former campaign manager told a jury. “All I remember is that she agreed with it,” Robby Mook, a witness in the trial of a former Clinton campaign lawyer charged with lying to the FBI said of Clinton. “She thought we made the right decision.”

  • A view shows Azovstal steel mill during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.

    Mariupol steelworks 'totally liberated,' claims Russia

    The Russian army on Friday said it had "totally liberated" the Azovstal steelworks in the strategic port city of Mariupol in southeast Ukraine after the last Ukrainian soldiers inside surrendered. "Since May 16, 2,439 Nazis from the Azov (regiment) and Ukrainian troops blocked in the factory have surrendered," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. "Today, May 20, the last group of 531 fighters gave themselves up."

  • People light candles during a vigil in memory of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid, outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    US lawmakers seek FBI probe into Palestinian journalist's death

    More than 50 US lawmakers on Friday called on the FBI to investigate the killing in the West Bank of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, despite Israeli promises of a probe. The 57 House members, largely left-leaning Democrats and led by Representative Andre Carson, noted that Abu Akleh held US citizenship and pointed to divergent accounts on how she died on May 11.

  • A US Border Patrol directs a migrant after he crossed into the US from Mexico through a gap in the border wall separating Algodones, Mexico, from Yuma.

    Covid restrictions for migrants at US border can not end yet, judge rules

    A federal judge in Louisiana on Friday blocked US authorities from lifting Covid-19 restrictions that empower agents at the US-Mexico border to turn back migrants without giving them a chance to seek asylum. Health authorities at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at the time it was needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in crowded border facilities.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, May 21, 2022