WHO: Evidence Shows Omicron Spreads Faster Than Other Variants, Affects Vaccinated, Recovered People
15:50 GMT 20.12.2021 (Updated: 16:19 GMT 20.12.2021)
The Omicron coronavirus variant, initially detected in South Africa and Botswana, was reported to be more contagious than other COVID strains. The new variant has already prompted additional pandemic restrictions in many countries.
There is significant evidence that the Omicron COVID-19 strain spreads faster than other variants and affects people who are vaccinated or have already had the coronavirus, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.
"There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant", he said during a news briefing in Geneva. "And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected".
According to the WHO head, the coronavirus has claimed over 3.3 million lives in 2021 - a number that eclipses last year's death tolls from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis.
Giorgio Palu, the president of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), estimated that it may require up to 40 times more coronavirus antibodies to counteract the Omicron variant compared to the original strain.
Earlier in December, the United Kingdom confirmed one Omicron-related death in the country.
In November, the WHO identified the new strain as one of concern, as its high number of mutations possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous.
Amid the influx of new cases caused by the spread of Omicron, many countries have introduced additional pandemic restrictions and urged citizens to receive booster shots of vaccines. Concerns over the outbreak of the new strain prompted the World Economic Forum scheduled for January 2022 to be postponed.