The World Health Organization on Monday warned that the divergent design of the Omnicron variant of coronavirus could fuel future surges with “severe consequences”.
In a technical briefing document for its member states, the UN health agency said that the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high and the overall risk related to the new variant of concern has been assessed as “very high”.
The report said, “Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,”.
The UN agency said that most of the cases outside Africa are travel-related, it expects local transmission in other countries as more information becomes available.
Currently, the local transmission of Omicron has been reported in South Africa and the variant has now been detected in four WHO regions: African; Eastern Mediterranean; European; and Western Pacific.
The WHO has suggested a number of priority actions for member states to curb the spread of the new virus variant, including enhanced surveillance and sequencing efforts and widespread use of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.’s PCR test to detect the variant.
Apart from enhanced surveillance and sequencing efforts, the UN health agency has suggested field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the characteristics of Omicron.
As S gene target failure (SGTF) from a widely used PCR test is indicated for Omicron, the SGTF can be used as the marker for this variant, which may lead to efficient detection of the variant of concern.
Use of risk-based approach to adjust international travel measures in a timely manner. The WHO has advised checking its forthcoming guidelines on international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant for additional information.
Report initial cases/clusters associated with Omicron to WHO and report the proportion of Omicron among sequenced samples.Accelerate Covid-19 vaccination coverage as rapidly as possible.