Omicron is not common cold, warns WHO

US daily cases cross 1 mn, new variant IHU reported in France

Omicron is not common cold, warns WHO

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4

As India battles Omicron spread with New Delhi set to see weekend curfew and national experts saying the third wave is here, the World Health Organisation on Tuesday warned nations against taking the new Covid-19 variant lightly and urged them to expand vaccination.

Edit: Jabs for adolescents

“Omicron is not common cold,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on Covid-19, said today as daily cases crossed the 1-million mark in the US. India added nearly one lakh (95,989) active cases in eight days with the load reaching 1,71,830 on Tuesday as against 75,841 on December 27 last year. The active cases are the ones that need hospital or home care and reflect the rising burden on health systems.

Kerkhove, in a fresh warning, said, “While some reports do show a reduced risk of hospitalisation of Omicron compared to Delta, there are still far too many people infected, in hospital sick and dying from Omicron and Delta. We can prevent infections, save lives now. Nations must work for vaccine equity.”

The WHO warning came on a day when French researchers reported a new variant with far more mutations than Omicron, which has 32 to 36 mutations in the spike protein the virus uses to attach to the human cells.

Ringing the bell with their discovery of a cluster of 12 cases of Covid-19 variant with 46 mutations and 37 deletions, the French researchers said the cases came from southern France after an index patient returned from Cameroon. The new variant has been named IHU (B16402) and studies are underway to assess its transmissibility and vaccine escape potential.

Back in India, chief of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation NK Arora said the third wave was very much here and could peak very soon.

He said nearly 75% of all Covid cases in major metros of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata were now of Omicron but added that the trajectory of infection in South Africa showed it could subside sooner. “In South Africa, Omicron cases rose rapidly through two weeks and then started to decline with most cases asymptomatic or mild,” he said.

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