WHO chief scientist says Omicron’best contagious’, don’t panic

World Health Organization (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a press conference die is organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations (ACANU) correspondents during the COVID-19 outbreak, caused By the novel coronavirus, at WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

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December 3 (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the Reuters Next conference on Friday that while the new coronavirus variant Omicron turned out to be highly transmissible, the right response was to be prepared, careful and not panic.

The WHO has urged countries to increase care capacity and vaccinate them people until fight a strong increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, die say that travel restrictions can buy time but alone were not the answer. read more

“How worried should we are? We need to be prepared and careful, don’t panic, want we are in a different situation than a year ago,” said Swaminathan: in an interview at the Reuters Next conference.

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While the emergence of the new variant was not welcome, she said the world was much better prepared considering the ? development of vaccines since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot of remains unknown over Omicron, that was first detected in South Africa last month and has been spotted in at least two dozen countries. Components of Europe were already wrestle with a wave of infections of the Delta variant before it emerged.

“We need to wait, let’s hope it’s milder… but it’s too early to jump to conclusions over the variant as a whole,” said Swaminathan of what was known over Omicron.

“Delta Accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant should be more transferable to out-compete and become globally dominant. It is possible, But that is not it possible to predict.”

The top of the WHO scientist said the Omicron variant seemed to cause three times more infections than previously experienced in South Africa, which means “it seems to be able to overcome something” of the natural immunity from previous infection”.

Vaccines seemed to have something effect.

“The fact that they don’t get sick….that means the vaccines still give protection and we would hope they would continue to offer protection’ said Swaminathan.

Asked for the need for annual vaccine boosters, she said: “WHO is preparing for all scenarios”, die may require an extra dose, met especially in some age groups of vulnerable sections of the population of a modified vaccine.

“Natural infection acts as a booster”, the WHO scientist said, adding that while the new variant “could have arisen in a country where no great agreement of genome sequencing”, the origins were unknown.

“Maybe We Never Will” know’ said Swaminathan.

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Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Stephanie Nebehay and Josephine Mason; Writing by Keith Weir and Alexander Smith; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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