The Omicron Scare

The World Health Organization has warned that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence. A technical paper published by the U.N. health agency says the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.” The report comes as more countries around the world reported cases of the variant and have moved to close their doors.

Japan and Israel have barred entry to all foreign visitors, while Morocco has banned all incoming flights. Other countries, including the U.S. and members of the European Union, have moved to prohibit travelers arriving from southern Africa.

WHO says the variant has mutations that could help it evade the immune-system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another. No deaths have been linked to the omicron variant so far and little is known about how contagious it is or its ability to evade vaccines.

Last week, a WHO advisory panel said it might be more likely to re-infect people who have already had a bout with COVID-19. Scientists have long warned that the virus will keep finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in the world’s vaccination drive. The omicron variant was discovered in the African continent where under 7% of the population i.e less than 9 crore people have been vaccinated.

While omicron infections have been found in travelers arriving from abroad, Spain, Portugal and Scotland have raised fears that the variant may already be spreading locally. The omicron infections have underscored the difficulty in keeping the virus in check in a globalized world of jet travel and open borders.

Cases have been reported in Canada, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal where vaccine hesitancy is also high.

Despite the global worry, doctors in South Africa are reporting patients detected with the omicron variant are suffering mostly mild symptoms so far. 

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