COVID-19

Coronavirus Update: Omicron Variant Reported In 57 Countries, Says WHO

New Delhi: The Omicron variant has been reported in 57 countries, the World Health Organisation has said. In South Korea, where Omicron variant was first detected, a record number of Covid-19 cases have been reported. 

WHO has warned that the rate of hospitalisation resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection is likely to increase. The health agency also said that more data is required to evaluate the severity of the disease caused by the new variant. 

“Even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than for delta variant, it is expected that hospitalisations will increase if more people become infected and that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths,” WHO was quoted as saying in media reports.

Michael Ryan, Director of Health Emergencies, WHO, said in an interview with AFP news agency that it was “highly unlikely” that the new variant dodged vaccine protections entirely, AFP reported. 

Ryan, however, warned against drawing full-fledged conclusions from preliminary data and said that health authorities need to be careful about how the data received so far is interpreted.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned at a press briefing that the Omicron variant can spread more rapidly than previous variants, Xinhua news agency reported. He also said that certain features of the Omicron variant, including its global spread and large number of mutations, suggest it could change the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following are the important developments on Covid-19 from around the world:

India

India has reported as many as 23 cases of Covid-19 infection with the Omicron variant. The first two cases were reported in Karnataka. This was followed by one case in Gujarat, and another in Maharashtra. Seven cases of the Omicron variant were reported in Maharashtra’s Pune district on Sunday, six of whom belonged to the same family. No cases of infection with Omicron have been reported in Andhra Pradesh, a health official said Wednesday. 

United Kingdom 

In a new study, UK researchers have found that a mix-and-match approach to Covid-19 vaccines is safe and effective, and some combinations even improve upon immune responses, as per reports. Researchers believe that an experimental saliva test can diagnose SARS-CoV-2 infection in minutes, nearly as accurately as gold-standard PCR tests. 

UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said England has community transmission of Omicron variant, Reuters reported. A British scientist has said that the increase in omicron cases in the U.K. sheds light on what is next for the U.S, according to reports.

Africa

South Africa’s health regulator, South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on Wednesday approved a third booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to reports. On the same day, the country recorded 20,000 new Covid-19 cases, which is a record high since the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa.

Botswana has not seen a rise in Covid-19 hospitalisation. 

Other Developments

BioNTech and Pfizer said on Wednesday that a three-shot course of their Covid-19 vaccine was able to neutralise the new Omicron variant in a laboratory test and that they could deliver an upgraded vaccine in March 2022 if needed, as per reports. 

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration cleared a AstraZeneca antibody drug, and authorised it for people with serious health problems, or allergies. The antibody drug would be suitable for people who cannot get adequate protection from vaccination. This is the first antibody drug intended for long-term prevention of Covid-19 infection, rather than a short-term treatment. 

On Thursday, Cuba detected its first case of Omicron variant, Reuters reported.

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