Omicron more transmissible than other variants, reduces vaccine efficacy: WHO

A COVID positive patient being monitored at Healthcare centre in Srinagar. [FPK Photo/Zainab.]

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation on Sunday said that the Omicron coronavirus variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy.

The new variant causes less severe symptoms according to early data, the report said, adding, the Delta variant, first identified in India earlier this year, is responsible for most of the world’s coronavirus infections.

But South Africa’s discovery of Omicron- which has a large number of mutations- last month prompted countries around the world to impose travel bans on southern African countries and reintroduce domestic restrictions to slow its spread.

The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as of December 9. The faster transmission was noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent, and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.

But it stressed that a lack of data meant it could not say if Omicron’s rate of transmission was because it was less prone to immune responses, higher transmissibility, or a combination of both.

Early evidence suggests Omicron causes “a reduction in vaccine efficacy against infection and transmission”, the WHO said in a technical brief.

“Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs,” it added.

Meanwhile, the number of Omicron infections in India has risen to 37 with new four infections. The four new patients belong to Chandigarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

For Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh, these were the first cases, and in Karnataka, it was the third case.

Maharashtra’s Nagpur has reported its first case of Omicron- a 40-year-old man who came back from South Africa via Delhi, a report by NDTV said.

He tested positive at the airport on December 6 and his genome test report from the National Institute of Virology came today.

The report said this was Maharashtra’s 18th case of Omicron. To slam brakes on the virus, prohibitory orders banning large gatherings were declared in Mumbai on December 11 and 12.

A 20-year-old, who came from Italy to visit his relatives in Chandigarh, tested positive for Omicron. After landing on November 22, he was on home quarantine and tested positive for COVID on retesting on December 1. A genome sequencing confirmed Omicron.

The man, who was completely asymptomatic, got fully vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine while in Italy.

He is currently in institutional quarantine. His seven high-risk family contacts have been placed in quarantine too. All of them tested negative for Covid in RTPCR test. They were tested again today, the report said.

In Andhra Pradesh, a man who returned from Ireland, tested positive for the Omicron strain, which has raised concerns of a fresh outbreak across the world. He is currently in Vishakhapatnam.

States including Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat have reported cases of the new COVID variant. Maharashtra has seen the maximum number of cases.


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