WHO says measures used against Delta should work for Omicron – .

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WHO says measures used against Delta should work for Omicron – .


MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Measures used to counter the Delta variant are expected to remain the basis of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of the new Omicron version of the virus, World Health Organization officials said on Friday, while recognizing that travel restrictions imposed by some countries can save time.

While about three dozen countries around the world have reported Omicron infections, including India on Thursday, numbers so far are low outside South Africa, which is facing a rapid increase in cases. COVID-19 and where the new variant could become dominant.

Still, much remains unclear about Omicron, especially if it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, if it makes people more seriously ill, or if it can escape vaccine protection.

“Border control can delay the entry of the virus and save time. But every country and community must prepare for new outbreaks of cases, ”Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, told reporters on Friday at a virtual press conference. from the Philippines. “The good news in all of this is that none of the information we currently have on omicron suggests that we need to change the directions of our response. “

This means continuing to push for higher vaccination rates, adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks, among other measures, WHO Regional Emergency Director Dr Babatunde Olowokure said.

He added that healthcare systems must “ensure that we are treating the right patients in the right place at the right time, and therefore ensure that intensive care beds are available, especially for those who need them.”

Kasai warned, “We cannot be complacent.

The WHO has already spoken out against border closures, noting that they often have limited effect and can cause major disruption.

Officials in southern Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified, have denounced restrictions on travelers from the region, saying they are being punished for alerting the world to the mutant strain.

Scientists are working hard to learn more about Omicron, which has been named as a variant of concern because of the number of mutations and because early information suggests it may be more transmissible than other variants, Kasai said.

A few countries in the Western Pacific region are facing outbreaks that started before Omicron’s identification, although COVID-19 cases and deaths in many others have declined or stabilized, Kasai said. But that could change.

Some of the places that have found the variant in the region include Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia – and it’s likely to occur in more places.

The emergence of Omicron is of particular concern to the organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics, about two months away now.

Beijing is adopting a series of measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading during the Games, Zhao Weidong, spokesperson for the organizing committee, told reporters on Friday.

China has adopted a policy of zero tolerance for the transmission of COVID-19 and has some of the strictest border controls in the world.

Participants in the games will be required to live and compete inside a bubble, and only spectators residing in China who have been vaccinated and tested will be allowed at the venues.

Globally, cases have increased for seven consecutive weeks and the number of deaths has also started to rise again, largely due to the delta variant and a decrease in the use of protective measures in many other parts of the world, Kasai said.

“We shouldn’t be surprised to see more breakouts in the future. As long as transmission continues, the virus can continue to mutate, as evidenced by the emergence of omicron, reminding us of the need to remain vigilant, ”Kasai said.

He particularly warned of the likelihood of power surges due to more gatherings and movement of people during the holiday season.

The northern winter season will also likely bring other infectious respiratory diseases, such as the flu, alongside COVID-19.

“It’s clear this pandemic is far from over and I know people are worried about omicron,” Kasai said. “But my message today is that we can adapt the way we deal with this virus to better cope with future outbreaks and reduce their health, social and economic impacts. ”

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