Omicron, according to WHO, presents a very high risk globally
Despite significant concerns about the coronavirus' spread, the World Health Organization stated on Monday that global risks posed by the new omicron variant were very high, despite significant concerns about the variant itself. Nonetheless, countries around the world rushed to defend against its spread with a cascade of border closures and travel restrictions that recall the early days of the epidemic.
Scotland and Portugal discovered new cases of the highly mutated variant, while Japan joined Israel and Morocco in interdicting all foreign visitors, even as scientists cautioned that the extent of the threat presented by omicron remained unknown and as the patchwork of travel measures proved unable to stop its spread so far.
Many restrictions aimed at corralling omicron, which was initially identified last week by South African researchers, were directed towards travelers from southern Africa, bringing accusations that Western nations were discriminating against a region that has already been reset by vaccination shortages caused by rich nations hoarding doses.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in a statement on Monday that he was deeply concerned about the isolation of southern African nations and that he favoured rigorous testing over travel restrictions. He had long warned that low vaccination rates in Africa may be a breeding ground for new variants, and Guterres said.
The Biden administration said that the Biden administration appreciated the efforts of officials in South Africa for moving so swiftly and transparently, and that Washington was working closely with sister ministries in southern Africa.
But South Africa's health minister Joe Phaahla, a day before, stated on Monday that his country's health minister Joe Phaahla told reporters that he send a clear message to Becerra when the two guys met. "What you can do is to say to your president and your government that the travel restrictions aren't helping us, they're just making things more difficult," he said.
The WHO asked member nations to increase surveillance, testing, and vaccinations in a technical briefing note to member nations, reinforcing the essential findings that led its technical advisors Friday to label omicron a variant of worry.
The agency warned that the variant's high number of mutations including up to 32 variations in the spike protein meant that there may be future surges of COVID-19, which could have devastating consequences.
Experts say that omicron's mutations may be more powerful than prior versions of the virus, but that existing vaccinations are likely to provide protection from severe illness and death. Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top adviser to President Joe Biden, have stated that two weeks or longer before more information about the variant's transmission and the severity of illness is available. So far, scientists believe that omicron's mutations may allow it to spread more easily than prior versions of the virus, but that
Nonetheless, the makers of the two most powerful vaccinations, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, were planning to reformulate their vaccinations if necessary. Certain nations, including Britain, were prepared to expand booster programs to protect more people.
The WHO emphasised the need for nations to accelerate vaccinations as quickly as possible, particularly for vulnerable populations and those who are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated. It also called on health authorities to strengthen surveillance and field investigations, including community testing, to better identify omicron's characteristics.
The recommendation indicated that the steps taken by certain nations to slow testing and tracing capacity in recent months, as the epidemic appeared to be receding due to rising vaccination rates, are in the wrong direction.
Testing and tracing remains critical to managing this epidemic and really understanding what you're dealing with, said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the agency. We're asking all nations to really look for this variant, to look if people who have got it are getting them in hospital and if people who are fully vaccinated are ending up in hospital.
The briefing note states that PCR tests are a good method for detecting the new variant because they don't require as long a wait for an outcome as genetic sequencing tests that require laboratory capacity not available in all nations.
It's really good news, Harris said, You can far more quickly see whos got it.
While the agency had previously cautioned against imposing travel restrictions, the briefing note stated a more flexible tone, calling for a risk-based approach to travel restrictions that may include modified testing and quarantine restrictions. The agency said it would issue more detailed travel advice in the coming days.
WHO member states were attending a three-day meeting of the World Health Assembly to discuss a global plan on how to deal with pandemics, a move long sought by the agency to address shortcomings in the response to COVID-19. The European Union has argued for a treaty that would require greater information sharing and vaccination equity, but the United States has sought to keep open the possibility of a treaty that would not be legally binding.