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WHO sees more evidence that Omicron causes milder symptoms -Breaking


© Reuters. As the Omicron coronavirus variant continues its spread in Manhattan (New York City), U.S.A, December 27, 2021, a man undergoes a COVID-19 coronavirus test. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon


Emma Farge & Mrinalika Roy

GENEVA (Reuters). Increasing evidence indicates that Omicron Coronavirus variant is affecting upper respiratory tract. The variant causes milder symptoms and a decrease in death rates. A World Health Organization official claimed Tuesday.

Omicron has been found to infect the upper half of the body. “These are more evidences,” said Abdi Mahamud, WHO Incident Manager. Abdi Mahamud (WHO Incident Manager) stated to journalists based in Geneva that Omicron is not the only one that could cause severe pneumonia.

Although it can be good news, more research is needed to confirm that.

WHO data has shown that the variant with heavy mutations was detected for the first time in November. It is now known to have spread rapidly and been found in at least 128 other countries. This presents a problem for many countries and individuals trying to rebuild their lives and economies after almost two years of COVID-related disturbances.

While the case number has increased to an all-time high, death and hospitalisation rates have been lower than during other stages of the pandemic.

He said, “What we’re seeing is ….the uncoupling between cases and deaths.”

His remarks on the reduced risks of severe disease chime with other data, including a study from South Africa, which was one of the first countries where Omicron was detected.

Mahamud, however, warned that South Africa was an “outlier” due to its youth population.

He also warned Omicron’s transmissibility made it possible for the virus to become an epidemic in many areas within weeks. This could pose a danger to health systems in places where there is still a large unvaccinated population.


Mahamud explained that Omicron was slipping beyond antibodies. However, there was evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines offered some protection. They elicited a second pillar in the immune response, Mahamud claimed.

He stated, “Our prediction is that protection against severe hospitalizations and death (from Omicron will be maintained”)”, adding that this was also true for vaccines Sinopharm/Sinovac, which are available in China where Omicron incidences remain low.

“The vaccine isn’t the problem, it was the delivery of the vaccine and the reachability to the most vulnerable population.”

Mahamud was asked if an Omicron-specific vaccination was necessary. He said that it was premature to answer, but expressed doubts. Mahamud also stressed the need for global coordination.

He said that Omicron could be used to create a vaccine and that it may contain a variant with more transmission or immune-evasive properties. A WHO technical committee had recently met on vaccine composition.

He stated that the best way to minimize the effects of this variant is to reach the WHO goal of vaccinations for 70% of each country’s population by July. This would mean offering third or fourth doses to certain countries.

As case numbers due to Omicron have soared, some countries, including the United States, have cut down isolation or quarantine periods in a bid to allow asymptomatic people to return to work or school.

Mahamud stated that leaders must decide on the severity of an epidemic. He suggested that countries in the West with high cases might reduce isolation periods to maintain basic services.

But, it would be better for places which have shut down the facility to keep them out of business for 14 days.

“If your numbers seem small, invest more in keeping them low.