Omicron: Public health and social measures remain critical – WHO rep | Sunday Observer

Omicron: Public health and social measures remain critical – WHO rep

5 December, 2021

Public health and social measures remain key to curb the new Covid-19 variant: Micron, while vaccination is critical to reducing severe disease and death, World Health Organization Sri Lanka Representative Alaka Singh said.

She said as of December 3, 2021, Omicron has been reported in at least 19 countries, including now a case in Sri Lanka.

“WHO has designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the basis of advice from WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution. This decision was based on the emerging evidence from South Africa that the variant has caused a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology.”

“Countries need to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, countries also need to perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the variant epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralisation, or other characteristics. Sri Lanka has strong technical capacity in these areas. WHO is assisting the country as needed,” Singh said.

She said, “It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.”

“It is also not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalisation in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron, she said.

“WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating virus, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death, the WHO representative said.