WHO warns against 'toxic mix' of low vaccine coverage and testing amid Omicron scare

  • Earlier in the day, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said they are expecting more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days.
The world health body also sounded a word of caution against the “toxic mix” of low vaccination coverage and low testing, calling it a “recipe” for breeding of new Covid-19 variants.(AFP)
The world health body also sounded a word of caution against the “toxic mix” of low vaccination coverage and low testing, calling it a “recipe” for breeding of new Covid-19 variants.(AFP)
Published on Dec 01, 2021 10:12 PM IST
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Written by Shubhangi Gupta | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said it was expecting the number of countries reporting the new Omicron variant of coronavirus to grow. The world health body also sounded a word of caution against the “toxic mix” of low vaccination coverage and low testing, calling it a “recipe” for breeding of new Covid-19 variants.

“The emergence of the Omicron variant has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said.

"Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage and very low testing -- a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants," he said, while addressing a press conference.

The WHO chief's warning came amid widespread concerns regarding the Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa last month, and later in a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany among others.

Experts say the variant is possibly more dangerous, more than its predecessor Delta variant, which wreaked havoc across the world in the earlier waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier in the day, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said they are expecting more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days.

Also read | ‘Fines, bans’: How these nations are dealing with unvaccinated amid Omicron threat

Whether the variant is more transmissible or evades vaccines are some of the major questions that still need answering. Vaccine developers have said it will take about two weeks to assess whether their shots are effective against it.

In the meantime, many countries across the globe have rushed to impose travel bans or restrictions on passengers arriving from countries that have reported cases of the new Covid-19 variant.

Spain has effectively banned travelers from the UK who aren’t fully vaccinated. On the other hand, in Singapore, those who choose not to get their jabs will now have to pay for their own medical bills if they get Covid-19.

While Germany and Israel are moving closer to making Covid-19 vaccine shots compulsory; Greece is introducing fines and Spain is banning some unvaccinated travelers.

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