The Omicron coronavirus variant 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 virus’ 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.
“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”.
On Thursday, the WHO said South Africa ‘no longer leads the world in Omicron cases’ with more than 50 other countries now having registered cases globally.
The agency says although there is an increase in cases generally because of the new variant in the continent, fewer deaths are being registered compared to previous surges.
WHO says that SA ‘no longer leads the world in Omicron cases’
Latest COVID-19 statistics in SOuth Africa:
South Africa has reported 20 713 new COVID-19 cases, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3 276 529. This increase represents a 30.4% positivity rate.
A further 35 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 90 297 to date.