The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned people Friday not to panic over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 -- as early evidence shows many cases are mild or asymptomatic.
Published: 2021-12-03 05:45 pm
Don’t panic, most early Omicron cases are mild, WHO says
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The World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned people Friday not to panic over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 — as early evidence shows many cases are mild or asymptomatic.

While the virus strain appears to be spreading quickly, Soumya Swaminathan said there’s no reason yet to believe existing vaccines will need to be modified to fight the “variant of concern.”

“We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” Swaminathan said at a conference.

Her comments came after a rep for the global health agency told Reuters earlier this week that most early Omicron cases were “mild.” 

The representative added that there’s no sign the current vaccines will be less effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the strain than the shots have been with other variants.

(image)
World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan says most early cases of Omicron are mild or asymptomatic.
REUTERS

In Botswana, where some of the first known cases of Omicron emerged, 16 out of 19 of the country’s confirmed cases were asymptomatic, according to a senior health official from the nation.

Still, hospitalizations have rapidly increased in the Omicron hot spot of Gauteng province in South Africa in recent weeks — a sign that more research is needed to determine the severity of cases, scientists said.

On Friday, Awaminathan also cited data showing Omicron cases are doubling daily in South Africa.

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Hospitalizations are surging in South Africa, meanwhile in Botswana most confirmed cases of Omicron are asymptomatic.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe identified 50 cases, Canada reported 11, and the US had confirmed 10.

“We need to focus on getting people most at risk vaccinated,” WHO’s emergency director, Mike Ryan, said at a press event Friday.

Overall, Omicron had been identified in 40 countries as of Friday, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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