After the rise in COVID-19 cases across the world that has shot up by 11 percent globally last week, the World Health Organization has shown concern over and said, the risk posed by the Omicron variant is still “very high”.
In its COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update the WHO said that Omicron is responsible for the rapid virus spread in various countries, including those where it has already overtaken the previously dominant Delta variant of coronavirus.
The UN health agency said, “The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high.”
“Consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days and rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries,” including Britain and the United States, where the variant has become the dominant.
“The rapid growth rate is likely to be a combination of both immune evasion and intrinsic increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.”
However, the WHO underlined the 29 percent decrease in the occurrence of cases observed in South Africa — the country which first spotted the variant to the WHO on November 24. It said early data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark — which currently is seeing the world’s highest rate of infection per person showed that there was a decline in risk of hospitalisation for Omicron as compared to Delta.
However, further data was needed to understand Omicron’s difficulty in terms of clinical markers, including the use of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and death.
More data was also required on how the severity might be being impacted by previous Coronavirus infection, or vaccination. “It is also expected that corticosteroids and interleukin 6 receptor blockers will remain effective in the management of patients with severe disease,” the WHO said.
“However, preliminary data suggest that monoclonal antibodies may be less able to neutralise the Omicron variant.”
Rise in cases – The WHO said that in the week ending Sunday, following a gradual increase since October, the global number of new cases rose by 11 percent compared to the previous week, while the number of new deaths dipped by four percent.
“This corresponds to just under five million new cases and over 44,000 new deaths,” the Geneva-based organisation said. The highest numbers of new cases were reported from the United States, Britain, France and Italy.