WHO has revealed that no one has died from the Omicron “super mutant” Covid strain amid growing fears of a Christmas lockdown.
It comes as cases of the new strain have been recorded in a total of 38 countries with the US and Australia becoming the latest countries to report cases of the variant.
The WHO has warned it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” the WHO emergencies director, Michael Ryan, said.
The WHO said on Friday it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to Omicron, but the new variant’s spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.
The new variant could also slow global economic recovery, just as the Delta strain did, the International Monetary Fund chief, Kristalina Georgieva, said on Friday.
“Even before the arrival of this new variant, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing somewhat momentum,” she said. “A new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence.”
Earlier this week the first case of the Omicron Covid strain was detected in the US.
The individual, who was fully vaccinated was located in California and had recently travelled to South Africa, where the strain was first identified.
Health officials said the person returned to the San Francisco area on November 22 and tested positive for Covid on November 29.
They added that the individual had mild symptoms which are improving.
Last week Australia reported its first cases of the Omicron Covid variant as authorities said two overseas travellers arriving two Sydney tested positive for the new variant.
The two passengers were among a group of 14 others who arrived in Australia from southern Africa.
They were asymptomatic and were both vaccinated for COVID-19. The remaining 12 have been placed in quarantine.
CHRISTMAS LOCKDOWN FEARS
Meanwhile, fears over a Christmas lockdown have been mounting, with experts warning that Covid could ruin holiday celebrations over the “next five years” until it settles in an endemic state.
The UK’s infection toll hit 50,584 yesterday and143 deaths, bringing the total virus deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 145, 424.
Scientists are already estimating that one in every 300 new cases are caused by the mutant super-strain Omicron.
There have been 104 Omicron cases in England with more than half found in double jabbed.
The number of Omicron cases in the UK has risen to 134 – including the first confirmed case in Wales.
Experts have warned that Omicron “will become dominant in the UK” especially among the unvaccinated.
Prof Christina Pagel, a mathematician and professor of operational research at University College London, told The Sun: “By January, it’s very likely we’ll have a new dominant variant, which is Omicron, and everything we know about it says it is worse – we don’t know by how much, but it’s worse.
“We have really high cases with Delta now, even with vaccines and our booster programme going quite well.
“So adding something worse onto a situation that’s already quite volatile, I do think it’ll put pressure on the NHS.
“For the unvaccinated, I think January and February will be the riskiest time of the month since the start of the pandemic, because there will be a lot of infection around and not very much protection, and everyone will be out and about mixing.”
Government advisors have suggested the work from home advice should return in a bid to prevent the spread of Omicron as it could spark a new wave of cases.
The government has extended its booster campaign to 18-39 year-olds in order to get on the front foot of Omicron infections and to give Brits as much protection as possible.
Scientists have claimed that a third dose of the jab should be enough to protect Brits from falling seriously unwell from the Omicron variant.
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