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Omicron poses very high global risk, world must prepare -WHO

WorldNov 29, 2021 07:31AM ET
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© Reuters. A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/file photo

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) -The heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have "severe consequences" in some places, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

No Omicron-linked deaths had yet been reported, though further research was needed to assess its potential to resist vaccines and immunity induced by previous infections, it added.

Anticipating increased case numbers as the variant, first reported last week, spreads, the U.N. agency urged its 194 member states to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups.

"Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," the WHO said.

"The overall global risk ...is assessed as very high."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said Omicron's emergence showed how "perilous and precarious" the situation was.

"Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics," he told the start of an assembly of health ministers expected to launch negotiations on such an agreement.

"Our current system disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores."

The new global deal, expected by May 2024, would cover issues such as sharing of data and genome sequences of emerging viruses, and of any potential vaccines derived from research.

Scientist Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation that funds vaccine development, said Omicron's emergence had fulfilled predictions that transmission of the virus in areas with low vaccination rates would speed its evolution. 

"The inequity that has characterized the global response has now come home to roost," he told the talks, noting that Botswana and South Africa had fully vaccinated less than a quarter of their populations.

'OVERWHELMING DEMANDS'

Omicron was first reported on Nov. 24 from South Africa, where infections have risen steeply.

It has since spread to more than a dozen countries, many of which have imposed travel restrictions to try to seal themselves off. Japan on Monday joined Israel in saying it would close its borders completely to foreigners.

The WHO reiterated that, pending further advice, countries should use a "risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures", while acknowledging that a rise in coronavirus cases might lead to higher morbidity and mortality rates.

"The impact on vulnerable populations would be substantial, particularly in countries with low vaccination coverage," it added.

In vaccinated persons, meanwhile, "COVID-19 cases and infections are expected ... albeit in a small and predictable proportion".

Overall, there were "considerable uncertainties in the magnitude of immune escape potential of Omicron", and more data was expected in coming weeks.

Omicron poses very high global risk, world must prepare -WHO
 

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Comments (13)
Edi Sutrisno Hadi Ismanto
Edi Sutrisno Hadi Ismanto Nov 30, 2021 12:36AM ET
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WHO is business
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 29, 2021 9:44PM ET
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The world needs to wipe out some population, over crowded, thus virus were created to reduce population. Imagine a virus reported and a vaccine is developed within months, whereas some scientists still can't develop vaccine for AIDs, Cancer & other major diseases? What a joke. Is this a chemical warfare between powerful countries instead?
Greg Keith
Greg Keith Nov 29, 2021 7:56AM ET
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These States “ Lockdown again” and you all but expect ruin if the statesthat do
Jose Maderno
Jose Maderno Nov 29, 2021 7:47AM ET
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"Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics," he told the start of an assembly of health ministers expected to launch negotiations on such an agreement. -- Oh...it is just a financial shakedown orchestrated to impact financial markets.  WHO wants more money.
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 29, 2021 7:47AM ET
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Agree, seems like lives of the man on the street is worthless All the top people of the world are calling the shots, why do they  mind the man on the street?
Whaling Trawler
Whaling Trawler Nov 29, 2021 7:45AM ET
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I have chicken noodle soup. Vitamine C and D and a box of Kleenex so I'm totally prepared
Ricky Singh
Ricky Singh Nov 29, 2021 7:33AM ET
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WHO is corrupt
Bill Pulak
Bill Pulak Nov 29, 2021 6:33AM ET
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Omnicron is Moronic? No really rearrange the letters, councidence i think not
Varghese Martin
Varghese Martin Nov 29, 2021 6:33AM ET
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Anand Rai
Anand Rai Nov 29, 2021 6:31AM ET
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Its never ending process. Curiosity kills the cat. Please stop scaring the world.
Gavin OSullivan
Gavin OSullivan Nov 29, 2021 6:25AM ET
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we've been prepared for the past 2 years - and we're getting on with life. Maybe the WHO should as well.
Engin Rençber
Engin Rençber Nov 29, 2021 6:20AM ET
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w.h.o. is serving to who? big boys?
Richard Saunders
Richard Saunders Nov 29, 2021 6:08AM ET
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It's the end of the world, we're all going to die! So you mean, same old same old?
IceIce Baby
IceIceBaby Nov 29, 2021 5:54AM ET
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Previous variants have already spread globally, so... business as usual?
slow nickel fast dime
slow nickel fast dime Nov 29, 2021 5:38AM ET
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And next month there will be another variant even worse..SO PREDICTABLE
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 29, 2021 5:38AM ET
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Agree, it's like a chain reactions
 
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