World Health Organisation emergencies director Michael Ryan answers questions during an interview at WHO headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI

WHO and U.S. scientists say omicron no worse than other virus variants

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Geneva– The omicron variant appears to be no even worse than other coronavirus strains, top researchers from the WHO and the United States have stated, while cautioning that more research study is needed to evaluate its intensity.
The confident evaluations came as international issue grew over the greatly altered variant, which has forced dozens of countries to re-impose border constraints and raised the possibility of a return to economically punishing lockdowns.
While it is likely more transmissible than previous versions, “the initial information do not suggest that this is more serious,” said the World Health Organisations second-in-command.
” In fact, if anything, the instructions is towards less seriousness,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said in an interview on Tuesday, insisting though that more research was required.
Ryan likewise stated it was “highly not likely” that omicron could completely avoid protections offered by existing COVID-19 vaccines.
” We have extremely effective vaccines that have actually shown reliable versus all the variants so far, in terms of serious disease and hospitalization. … Theres no factor to expect that it would not be so” for omicron, he added, indicating preliminary data from South Africa, where the strain was initially reported.
Ryan acknowledged that it was possible that existing vaccines might prove less effective versus omicron, which counts more than 30 mutations on the spike protein that dots the surface area of the coronavirus and enables it to invade cells.
Leading U.S. scientist Anthony Fauci echoed the WHOs view, stating omicron did not appear worse than previous stress based upon early indications– and was perhaps milder.
The new version is “plainly highly transmissible,” really likely more so than delta, the existing dominant international strain, Fauci said.
” It probably is not more severe than delta,” he said. “There is some tip that it may even be less extreme.”
He noted it was crucial to not over-interpret the information because the populations being followed skewed young and were less likely to end up being hospitalized. Serious disease can likewise take weeks to establish.
” Then, as we get more infections throughout the remainder of the world, it may take longer to see whats the level of seriousness.”
International concern
The detection of the very first omicron cases two weeks ago accompanied rises in infection numbers across the world, and the variant fanned to issues about a global COVID-19 renewal.
Omicron has up until now been found in 57 countries around the world, the WHO said. No deaths have yet been associated with the variation.
Ryan stressed the need for all countries to assist spot omicron cases and research its behavior.
” The more and better data we collect in the next two weeks, (the better opportunities) of a clear conclusion regarding the ramifications of this variation,” he stated.
As European Union health ministers satisfied Tuesday to find methods to coordinate their reaction, Norway announced it will tighten up restrictions to combat its surge.
A suspected outbreak of omicron last week among dozens of partygoers who had actually all been immunized caused brand-new restrictions in and around the capital Oslo.
Neighbouring Sweden likewise said Tuesday it would release a series of anti-COVID-19 procedures.
In other places in Europe, Poland stated that from Dec. 15, it will restrict the variety of individuals allowed theaters, dining establishments and churches, and make vaccination compulsory for health care employees, teachers and the military from March 1.
Growing frustration
While the positive preliminary assessments of omicron assisted lift the mood, especially among worldwide markets as worries of another economic slump decreased, the variants development has highlighted that the fight against the pandemic is far from over.
COVID-19 has actually formally eliminated more than 5.2 million individuals around the globe because it was first declared in late 2019, although the real toll is most likely to be a number of times higher.
Scientists and health experts state vaccinations and continued social distancing stay crucial to defeating all versions of the infection, consisting of omicron.
” The infection hasnt altered its nature,” Ryan said. “The rules of the video game are still the very same.”
Vaccine requirements have actually triggered resistance in numerous nations, either since of false information and conspiracy theories or the logistical and financial impact of such requireds.
Around 4,000 people protested in Brussels on Tuesday against a plan by the Belgian federal government to make vaccines obligatory for health employees from early next year.
” We are in favor of vaccination, however why only health workers?” said Perrine, a nurse.
” Because everybody should be vaccinated, it is everybody or no one.”

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