WHO warns Covid-19 Omicron variant likely to spread worldwide

Countries with low vaccination rates at risk of being overwhelmed.

Belmont Lay | November 29, 2021, 06:16 PM

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The Covid-19 Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Nov. 29 in a technical advice to its 194 member states.

And it will pose a "very high" global risk where Covid-19 surges could have "severe consequences" in some areas, the UN agency added.

Get ready for spike

WHO urged countries to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to "ensure mitigation plans are in place" to maintain essential health services.

"The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high," WHO said, owing to an unprecedented number of spike mutations of Omicron.

However, no deaths linked to Omicron have been reported to date.

Not much data on severity yet

WHO said further research was needed to assess if Omicron can spread in the face of immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections.

Risk of being overwhelmed

The concern is that increasing number of cases, regardless of a change in severity, may overwhelm healthcare systems and have asymmetrical downsides for countries with low vaccination rates.

Omicron has since spread around the world, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

More and more countries are starting to impose travel restrictions.

Japan said on Nov. 29 it would close its borders to foreigners.

Israel was the first to do so before that.

Top photo via Unsplash

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