WHO Confirms the Omicron Covid-19 Variant in 77 Countries

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus [Photo: Anadolu Agency]

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the Omicron Covid-19 variant is spreading across the globe at an unprecedented rate.

Cases of the heavily mutated variant have been confirmed in 77 countries.

In the press conference on Tuesday WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is probably in many other countries that have not yet detected the variant.

“The reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries even if it hasn’t been detected yet. Omircon is spreading at a rate that we haven’t seen with any previous variant.

We are concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild, even if Omicron does cause less severe disease increased number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems.”

He then called on governments to continue enforcing the Covid-19 safety measures to prevent further spreading of the variant.

Vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. Countries can and must prevent the spread of Omicron with measures that work today. Its not vaccines instead of masks, its not vaccines instead of distancing, its not vaccines instead of ventilation or hand hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well!”

Dr. Tedros further reiterated concerns about vaccine inequity, as some countries accelerate rollouts of a booster shot in response to Omicron.

Recent studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showed it produced far fewer neutralizing antibodies against Omicron than against the original strain, but that this deficit could be reversed by a third, booster, jab.

He said boosters could play an important role in curbing the spread of Covid-19, however noting that it was a question of prioritization.

The order matters. Giving boosters to groups at low risk of severe disease or death simply endangers the lives of those at high risk who are still waiting for their primary doses because of supply constraints,” he said.

Omicron was first identified in South Africa in November this year. 

The country has since seen a surge in  Covid-19 cases with President Cyril Ramaphosa testing positive for the virus.

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