Published: 29th November 2021
Overall global risk with Omicron very high, further surges possible with 'severe' consequences: WHO
WHO said, "Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high."
The overall global risk related to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron is assessed as very high, said the World Health Organization on November 29.
The WHO said that Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26 to 32 in the spike, some of which are of concern and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility. However, there are still considerable uncertainties, added the global health body.
"Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high," said the WHO.
The global health body added further that there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where the surge may take place. While prescribing priority actions for the member states, the WHO emphasised on enhancing surveillance methods like community testing and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants — including Omicron.
Accelerating COVID vaccination coverage as rapidly as possible, especially among populations designated as a high priority who remain unvaccinated or are not yet fully vaccinated, should remain a top priority as per the WHO.
The use of masks, physical distancing, ventilation of indoor space, crowd avoidance and hand hygiene remain key to reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 even with the emergence of the Omicron variant. Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases to interrupt chains of transmission is strongly advised, said WHO in its technical paper on COVID-19 while including the preparedness action for member countries.