WHO releases an important update about Omicron COVID variant

WHO releases an important update about Omicron COVID variant

World Health Organisation, on November 28, 2021, released an update on the new COVID-19 variant named Omicron and mentioned that on November 26, 2021, the organisation designated the same as a variant of concern, as advised by the Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution. As per reports, the decision was based on the evidence whereby Omicron has shown several mutations which may impact how it behaves, i.e., spreads or increases the severity of illness. 

Sharing more, the report said, “Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.”  

Experts have informed that the transmissible aspects of Omicron is not yet clear and studies are being conducted to check if it spreads more easily from person to person, in comparison to other variants, including Delta, Moreover, preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in affected nations, especially South Africa, however, this could also be connected with increasing cases, irrespective of the strain. “Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key,” the report mentioned.

WHO is coordinating with several researchers for better understanding of Omicron. Meanwhile, countries are encouraged to contribute to the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data which will be helpful in taking necessary measures swiftly. Experts are monitoring and evaluating the data, which is being shared, thereby checking how the mutations in Omicron alter the behaviour of the virus.  

Emphasising on the recommended actions for countries, WHO said, “As Omicron has been designated a Variant of Concern, there are several actions WHO recommends countries to undertake, including enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases;  sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures.

Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. They should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases.  WHO is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response.”

Meanwhile, sharing recommended actions for people, WHO experts said, “The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least one metre from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”

The organization also mentioned about the importance of vaccination. Inequities in access to coronavirus vaccines needs to be addressed urgently whereby healthcare workers, elder citizens, and vulnerable citizens should receive the necessary doses on time.

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