Omicron in 89 countries, cases doubling in 1.5 to 3 days: WHO

‘Variant spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity’

Updated - December 19, 2021 01:23 am IST

Published - December 18, 2021 04:22 pm IST - GENEVA

People queue to check-in for the Eurostar at St. Pancras international train station in London. Eurostar, which operates trains across the English Channel, sold out of tickets to France on Friday before new rules restricting travel to and from Britain took effect.

People queue to check-in for the Eurostar at St. Pancras international train station in London. Eurostar, which operates trains across the English Channel, sold out of tickets to France on Friday before new rules restricting travel to and from Britain took effect.

The Omicron variant of coronavirus has been reported in 89 countries and the number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.

Omicron is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity, but it is unclear if this is due to the variant’s ability to evade immunity, its inherent increased transmissibility or a combination of both, the WHO said in an update.

 

The agency designated Omicron a variant of concern on November 26, soon after it was first detected, and much is still not known about it, including the severity of the illness it causes.

‘More data needed’

“There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron,” the WHO said. “More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.”

It added, “There are still limited available data, and no peer-reviewed evidence on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness to date for Omicron.”

Overwhelming hospitals

The WHO warned that with cases rising so rapidly, hospitals could be overwhelmed in some places.

“Hospitalisations in the U.K. and South Africa continue to rise, and given rapidly increasing case counts, it is possible that many healthcare systems may become quickly overwhelmed,” the agency said.

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