Early data indicates the omicron coronavirus variant may more easily reinfect people who have already had the virus or been vaccinated than previous variants, but could also cause milder disease, the WHO said Thursday.
“Emerging data from South Africa suggests increased risk of reinfection with omicron,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, adding that “there is also some evidence that omicron causes milder disease than Delta”.
But he stressed that more data was needed before drawing firm conclusions, and urged countries everywhere to boost their surveillance to help provide a clearer picture of how omicron is behaving.
The hopeful assessments came as global concern grew over the heavily mutated variant, which has forced dozens of nations to re-impose border restrictions and raised the possibility of a return to economically punishing lockdowns.
Even if the new variant turns out to be less dangerous than previous variants, if it transmits more rapidly, it could still sicken more people, overburden health systems, “and more people die,” he said.
The WHO experts stressed the importance of vaccination, highlighting that even if vaccines prove less effective against omicron, as some data indicates, they are still expected to provide significant protection against severe disease. (abs-cbn)