Omicron spreading at unprecedented rate, probably in most countries: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday issued a grim warning saying Omicron is spreading at an unprecedented rate. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief of the global health body, told reporters the new strain of coronavirus has been officially reported in 77 countries but has probably already reached most nations undetected. Here are more details on this.
Why does it matter?
- The Omicron variant has triggered panic around the world and forced several countries to impose sweeping restrictions.
- It is said to be the most heavily mutated strain of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 so far.
- Early data suggest it spreads fast but causes a milder illness though further studies are ongoing.
- The United Kingdom recently announced the first death due to the variant.
'Sheer number of cases could overwhelm health systems'
"Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems," WHO chief Ghebreyesus said at a press conference on Tuesday. To recall, the variant was first reported to the health body by South Africa last month.
Pfizer says COVID-19 pill is effective against Omicron
Meanwhile, American drugmaker Pfizer said its COVID-19 pill reduced hospital admissions and deaths among at-risk people by 90% in clinical trials. It claimed that Paxlovid, the drug, is effective against Omicron in lab testing. "This news provides another potentially powerful tool in our fight against the virus, including the Omicron variant," United States President Joe Biden said about the development.
WHO chief's advice on boosters
More and more countries are now pushing for booster doses. But the WHO chief said it should be "a question of prioritization." "The order matters. Giving boosters to groups at low risk of severe disease or death simply endangers the lives of those at high risk who are still waiting for their primary doses because of supply constraints," he said.