The World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, has urged leaders and health experts to begin planning effective emergency response against Omicron coronavirus variant ahead of its global spread.
The global health body’s scientist chief also urged people not to panic over the emergence of the variant and said that it was too early to say if COVID-19 vaccines would have to be modified to fight it.
Swaminathan also said it was impossible to predict if Omicron would become the dominant strain and that rather than begin unnecessary speculation, energy should be focused on containment plans and response.
Speaking with journalist on Friday at the Reuters Next conference, she noted that since the virus has gained a foothold in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe and has reached seven of the nine provinces of South Africa, where it was first identified, the right response was to be ready.
“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” she said.
“Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”
Much remains unknown about Omicron, which has been detected in more than two dozen countries as parts of Europe grapple with a wave of infections of the more familiar Delta variant.
“We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder … but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Swaminathan said.
Also, WHO spokesman, Christian Lindmeier, told a United Nations briefing in Geneva earlier that vaccine makers should prepare for the likelihood of adjusting their products.