A World Health Organization (WHO) official on Thursday warned that the cases of Omicron strain should not be dismissed as “mild” as it appears to be spreading faster than any other variants of concern. In an interview with news agency ANI, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia spoke about the overall threat posed by the new variant of concern.
Speaking to ANI, the WHO official stressed that the overall threat posed by the new variant of concern depends on the transmissibility, immune escape ability, and virulence of the strain. She added that according to the current limited evidence, Omicron appears to be spreading faster at a rate not seen with any other previous variant. However, more data is required to draw firmer conclusions.
“We should not dismiss Omicron as mild. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm health systems,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh added.
When asked if anti-COVID vaccines are effective against Omicron, Dr Singh said that preliminary data suggest that “vaccines may have reduced effectiveness against Omicron”.
“Again, it will take a few more weeks before there is enough evidence to fully assess the vaccines’ performance against Omicron. We should also not forget that vaccines alone will not get any country out of this pandemic… Countries can – and must – prevent the spread of Omicron with proven public health and social measures. We must continue to do it all. Protect yourself and protect each other. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, keep a distance, open windows, clean your hands and cough and sneeze safely,” she further added.