Omicron versus Delta: Fauci breaks down what is known and what's unknown
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday said the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, which has again shut the borders of many countries in fresh apprehension, is certainly not worse than the previous variants, including Delta. Speaking to AFP, Fauci reiterated that a complete picture of the new variant might take some time. However, some areas have become quite clear.
Here is what Fauci said:
Transmissibility: Omicron is "clearly highly transmissible", and very likely more than Delta, Fauci said.
Immune evasion: Is Omicron better at evading immunity from vaccination or previous infection? According to Fauci, the answer is yes. Evidence is epidemiological data from around the world, he said. Results from lab experiments that tested the potency of antibodies from current vaccines against Omicron should come in the next few days to a week, Dr Fauci said.
On the question of severity, he said Omicron is certainly not more severe than Delta.
"There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations seems to be less than with Delta," he said.
A more transmissible virus that doesn't cause more severe illness and doesn't lead to a surge of hospitalisations and deaths is the "best-case scenario", while the worst would be if the highly transmissible variant also causes severe disease. "I don't think that worst-case scenario is going to come about, but you never know," Fauci said.
First reported from South Africa, the variant has now been detected in at least 38 countries with the potent of the existing vaccines being questioned against this new variant. The variant, however, has not been linked to any deaths. The variant has over 50 mutations and does not trigger the usual symptoms like loss of taste or smell, breathing difficulties etc.