The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the overall risk related to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 remains very high, noting that the new strain has a significant growth advantage over the Delta variant.
The global health body also noted that the global risk of COVID-19 remains high.
According to a technical brief by the WHO, Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 mutations in the spike protein,
Some of the mutations, WHO said, were likely to be associated with humoral immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.
Omicron was a variant of concern, following advice from the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution in December 2021.
“The overall risk related to Omicron remains very high for a number of reasons. First, the global risk of COVID-19 remains very high overall. Second, current data indicate that Omicron has a significant growth advantage over Delta, leading to rapid spread in the community. The rapid increase in cases will lead to an increase in hospitalisations, may pose overwhelming demands on health care systems and lead to significant morbidity, particularly in vulnerable populations.
“The overall threat posed by Omicron largely depends on four key questions: (i) how transmissible the variant is; (ii) how well vaccines and prior infection protect against infection, transmission, clinical disease and death; (iii) how virulent the variant is compared to other variants; and (iv) how populations understand these dynamics, perceive risk and follow control measures, including public health and social measures,” it said.
The global health body added that this global risk assessment, and public health advice, are based on the current best available evidence and will be updated frequently as more information becomes available about these key questions.