The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to fully vaccinate their people to fight a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant, saying that travel curbs could buy time but alone were not the answer.
The WHO’s Western Pacific director Takeshi Kasai told a media briefing that border controls can buy time but every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases.
He continued People should not only rely on border measures. What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far the information available suggests we don’t have to change our approach.
The WHO official urged countries to fully vaccinate vulnerable groups and stick to preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
Despite shutting its borders to travel from high-risk southern African countries, Australia became the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, a day after it was found in five United States (US) states.
Omicron 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. Omicron has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO and scientists are still gathering data to establish how severe and contagious it is.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a UN briefing in Geneva that I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet. However, he said, vaccine makers should prepare for the likelihood of adjusting their products to protect against Omicron.
Almost 264 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus since it was first detected in central China in late 2019 and 5.48 million people have died, according to a Reuters tally.