The Omicron variant has been reported in 57 nations, with COVID cases rising in southern Africa including Zimbabwe, and the number of patients needing hospitalisation is likely to rise as it spreads, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.
The WHO, in its weekly epidemiological report, said more data was needed to assess the severity of disease caused by the Omicron variant and whether its mutations may reduce protection from vaccine-derived immunity.
South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the Omicron variant which has been detected in seven of the country’s nine provinces, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.
Omicron, first detected in southern Africa last month, has prompted governments across continents to impose travel curbs and take other measures to contain it.
He urged South Africans to get fully vaccinated, adding that the country could manage the fourth wave without stricter lockdown restrictions over Christmas.
Meanwhile, in Asia, the Omicron variant is threatening to undermine the continent’s recovery from the pandemic.
In the midst of the uncertainty, there are hopes that research in Hong Kong could lead to the development of new vaccines.
More details are outlined in the video below:
The European Union’s public health agency said last week that the Omicron variant could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months.
The estimate could lend weight to preliminary information about the very high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, above that of the Delta variant, which before Omicron was considered the most contagious of the main coronavirus strains.
Regarding the travel bans imposed on southern countries, European Union health ministers said on Monday they would discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the spread of the Omicron variant on Tuesday, but are not expected to make any decision on easing travel restrictions, three sources told Reuters.
South Africa has since criticised the travel ban which it said penalised the country for having the expertise to first identify the variant.
In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa slams travel bans isolating southern Africa:
-Additional reporting by SABC News