Omicron COVID variant a 'wake-up call': WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan
- This variant may be more transmissible than Delta
- Its appearance has sparked global concern
- Vaccination is still a priority, and public health measures must be maintained, she said
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the new COVID-19 variant could serve as a "wake-up call" for COVID appropriate behaviour in India. She emphasised the importance of being cautious and continuing to use masks, calling them "pocket vaccines" that have been found to be highly effective, particularly in indoor settings.
Other recommendations made by scientists for combating 'Omicron' - the new variant of concern - include fully vaccinating all adults, avoiding large gatherings, expanding genome sequencing, and closely monitoring any unusual increase in cases. "We need a science-based strategy to battle 'Omicron'," Swaminathan told NDTV.
Swaminathan added that this variant may be more transmissible than Delta, though no definitive statement can be made at this time. "In a few days, we'll know more about the strain," she said.
According to news agency Reuters, 'Omicron,' dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, though experts are unsure whether it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 than other strains. Its appearance has sparked global concern, as well as a new wave of travel restrictions. It has also sparked a new wave of sell-offs in financial markets, amid concerns that it will halt the economy's recovery from the pandemic's two years.
Concerning comparisons with other COVID variants, Swaminathan said that more research is needed to pinpoint the new variant's characteristics.
Vaccination is still a priority, and public health measures must be maintained, she said, pointing out that 'Omicron' has a lot of mutations. She went on to say that vaccine equity is still a work in progress.
Genome sequencing, or determining an organism's genetic makeup, will continue to be important in the fight against COVID, she said. She further added that we need to take a risk-based approach to travel bans because they haven't stopped COVID in the past. "Travel bans should be temporary and reviewed often," she said.