Geneva (UNA-OIC) – As scientists continue to investigate the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged countries not to panic but to prepare for its likely spread.
Heralding South Africa’s and Botswana’s decision to report the appearance of the Omicron coronavirus mutation last month, the UN health agency repeated that it will take another two weeks before more is known about how transmissible and how dangerous it actually is.
Speaking in Geneva, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier stressed that data suggesting that Omicron was highly transmissible was only preliminary.
“It is much more preferred to prepare your country, your health system to possibly incoming cases because we can be pretty sure that this Omicron variant will spread around,” he said.
The WHO official also cautioned against knee-jerk reactions to reports that Omicron had continued to spread.
“Let’s not get deterred right now, let us first get as much information as possible to make the correct risk assessment based on the information that we will have and then let’s move on,” Lindmeier said.
“Let’s not get completely worried or confused by individual information which are all individually important, but which need to be brought together in order to assess together,” he added.
The new mutant, classified by the World Health Organization of concern, was detected for the first time in South Africa, but since the country’s authorities notified the World Health Organization on November 24, Omicron infections have been recorded in about 30 countries on all continents.
The Omicron variant was first identified last November in southern Africa, where researchers shared discoveries about its mutations.
Classified as the WHO’s top-level “variant of concern”, omicron has a worrisome number of mutations, according to the UN health agency, including up to 32 identified in the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to human cells.