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Omicron less likely to be severe: WHO official

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Omicron less likely to be severe: WHO official
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The Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus has so far not shown any signs of being more deadly than the Delta strain and it was possible that vaccines would hold up reasonably well against it said Dr.Michael Ryan, director of emergencies at the World Health Organisation (WHO) to news agency AFP.

It was "highly unlikely" that the mutated strain would be able to survive the vaccines administered, he revealed. Michael Ryan is an epidemiologist and former trauma surgeon who comes from Ireland.

"The preliminary data doesn't indicate that this is more severe. In fact, if anything, the direction is towards less severity," Ryan said during the interview, insisting though that more research was needed. While the data coming in was still a developing story on the highly-mutated variant, Ryan said that there was, as of yet, no sign that the virus would be able to evade vaccines.

Data coming in from South Africa was also showing that Omicron infections may be even milder than previously assumed, Ryan said. The primary concern for scientists now was assessing whether it was more lethal or the infections more severe than in existing strains. There are over 30 mutations in the strain's "spike proteins" which the virus uses to attach and enter human cells, prompting concern over the vaccine's ability to hold it off, Ryan acknowledged.

While the Omicron variant has shown increased capability of transmission and greater likelihood of reinfection, Ryan said that the data from South Africa was so far showing that vaccines were effective.

"There is some evidence to suggest that reinfection with Omicron is more common than it was with previous waves or previous variants," Ryan said. "...We're particularly interested in seeing not whether you can be reinfected with Omicron, but whether any new infection is more or less severe."

Current vaccines for Covid-19 would protect against severe infections but even more important was to maintain hygiene protocol like social distancing and wearing masks the WHO official emphasised.

"The virus hasn't changed its nature. It may have changed in terms of its efficiency, but it hasn't changed the game entirely," he told AFP. "The rules of the game are still the same."

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TAGS:Omicron WHO Covid-19 
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