WHO warns Omicron variant poses ‘very high’ world danger

The heavily-mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is more likely to unfold internationally and poses a really excessive danger of an infection surges that might have “severe consequences” in some locations, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

No Omicron-linked deaths had but been reported, although additional analysis is required to evaluate its potential to flee safety in opposition to immunity induced by vaccines and former infections, it added on Monday.

In anticipation of elevated case numbers because the variant, first reported final week, spreads, the UN well being company urged its 194 member states to speed up vaccination of high-priority teams and guarantee plans had been in place to take care of well being companies.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO mentioned.

“The overall global risk related to the new variant … is assessed as very high.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, sounded the alarm firstly of an meeting of well being ministers on Monday that’s anticipated to launch negotiations on a world settlement on stopping future pandemics.

“The emergence of the highly mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is,” Tedros mentioned.

“Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics: Our current system disincentivises countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores.”

The new world deal, anticipated by May 2024, would cowl points equivalent to sharing of information and genome sequences of rising viruses, and of any potential vaccines derived from analysis.

European Union member international locations and others had sought language calling for work in direction of a treaty, however the United States and another international locations countered that the substance of any accord ought to be labored out first earlier than any such doc is given a reputation.

A “treaty” would counsel a legally binding settlement that might require ratification – and would possible incur home political haggling in some international locations.

On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s ambassador in Geneva, Simon Manley, tweeted a duplicate of the draft textual content that was agreed by consensus – as required beneath WHO rules on such points – and praised Chile and Australia for his or her work as co-chairs.

“The #Omicron variant shows yet again why we need a common understanding of how we prepare for and respond to pandemics, so we’re all playing by the same rules,” he wrote.

COVID ‘is not done with us’

The draft makes no reference to the phrase “treaty” however, amongst different issues, requires the creation of an “intergovernmental negotiating body” amongst WHO member states to work out a potential deal to enhance pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

The world ought to now be “wide awake” to the specter of the coronavirus, “but Omicron’s very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we are done with COVID-19, it’s not done with us,” Tedros mentioned.

Omicron was first reported on November 24 in South Africa, the place infections have risen steeply.

It has since unfold to greater than a dozen international locations, a lot of which have imposed travel restrictions to attempt to seal themselves off. Japan on Monday joined Israel in saying it might shut its borders to foreigners.

The WHO reiterated that, pending additional recommendation, international locations ought to use a “risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures in a timely manner”, whereas acknowledging {that a} rise in coronavirus circumstances would possibly result in increased morbidity and mortality charges.

“The impact on vulnerable populations would be substantial, particularly in countries with low vaccination coverage,” it added.

In vaccinated folks, in the meantime, “COVID-19 cases and infections are expected … albeit in a small and predictable proportion”.

Overall, there have been “considerable uncertainties in the magnitude of immune escape potential of Omicron”, and extra information was anticipated within the coming weeks.