The omicron coronavirus variant should not be categorized as “mild” even though it appears to exhibit less severe symptoms than the delta strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
There appears to be a reduced risk of severity in both younger and older people, according to Janet Diaz, WHO lead on clinical management.
However, the highly contagious omicron strain comes with a whole host of challenges, including the fact that it is still dangerous for the unvaccinated and that it is infecting medical personnel at high rates.
In Pennsylvania, nearly 40 percent of all covid tests came back positive the first week of January. New Jersey health officials said hospitals were preparing to see up to 30 percent of staff out because of covid exposure based on the state’s positivity rate, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Jan. 9.
First identified in southern Africa and Hong Kong in November 2021, omicron can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated. However, vaccines help protect against severe infections that could put you in hospital.
Several hospitals in the U.K. have declared omicron care as “critical” incidents. This is because omicron is infecting hospital workers, causing staff absences and rising pressures on health facilities. France Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that January would be tough for hospitals.
Omicron patients are taking up “conventional” beds in hospitals while delta was putting a strain on ICU departments, according to Olivier.
Governments across the world are putting tighter restrictions as the omicron variant continues to drive up Covid-19 cases globally. Election rallies have been canceled in India as its megacities experience a surge in cases.
“While omicron does appear to be less severe compared to delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean it should be categorized as mild. Just like previous variants, omicron is hospitalizing people and it is killing people” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros warned of a “tsunami” of cases as global infections rise to records fuelled by both omicron and delta. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and governments struggle to tame the virus, which has killed more than 5.8 million people.
He called for greater vaccine distribution to help poorer countries vaccinate their populations.
Based on the current vaccine rollout, 109 countries will miss the WHO’s target for 70 percent of the world to be vaccinated by July, according to Tedros.
Photo: Healthcare workers (L-R) Henry Paul, Ray Akindele, and Wilta Brutus process covid-19 rapid antigen tests at a testing site in Long Beach, Calif., Jan. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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