In an official update to the ongoing outbreak of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the World Health Organisation has announced that it intends to conduct studies into whether the highly mutated variant will be able to evade current testing regimes other than RT-PCR.
"The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests," the world health body said in its statement.
Regarding the severity of the new strain WHO said there was no evidence as yet that the virus was more severe than any other strain. The statement clarified that while there were increasing cases of hospitalisation in South Africa, where the virus was first detected, this could also be due to the increase in overall cases of Covid-19 infections.
"There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants... All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key," the statement reads.
Initial reported infections were among university students - younger individuals who tend to have milder disease - but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks, WHO announced.