No Omicron deaths reported yet even though the new Covid-19 variant has been detected in at least 38 countries.
The United States and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant, as Omicron infections pushed South Africa’s total cases past 3 million.
The World Health Organisation has warned, “it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it or even if Omicron deaths will become an issue”.
The WHO claimed on Friday, December November 3, that it had still seen no reported Omicron deaths, but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.
“The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did”, the International Monetary Fund chief, Kristalina Georgieva, said on Friday.
“Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,” she said. “A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.”
A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first reported on November 24, suggests it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared with the Delta or Beta strains, however, evidence still stands firm showing there are no confirmed Omicron deaths yet.
“The emergence of Omicron was the ‘ultimate evidence’ of the danger of unequal global vaccination rates,” the Red Cross head, Francesco Rocca, said “The scientific community has warned … on several occasions about the risks of very new variants in places where there is a very low rate of vaccinations”.
“It’s unbelievable that we are still not realising how much we are interconnected. This is why I call the Omicron variant the ultimate evidence.”
Uğur Şahin, the CEO of BioNTech, which makes the Covid vaccine with Pfizer, said “the company should be able to adapt the shots relatively quickly”. He added, “current vaccines should continue to protect against severe disease, despite mutations”.
“I believe in principle at a certain timepoint we will need a new vaccine against this new variant. The question is how urgent it needs to be available,” Şahin said.
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