WHO warns Asia-Pacific to brace for Omicron, urges countries to speed up vaccination … – WION

The World Health Organisation on Friday warned the Asia-Pacific countries to brace for the Omicron variant, asking them to take immediate measures to boost health infrastructure and pace up the vaccination drive.

After Europe and America, Omicron entered Asia this week after India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea reported Covid cases of the new variant.

Many countries have tightened travel restrictions in a bid to prevent the further spread of the virus, but the WHO’s warning to the Asia-Pacific, a region of about 650 million people, stressed that border controls could only buy them time.

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“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,” Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s western Pacific director, told a media briefing.

Kasai urged countries to fully vaccinate vulnerable groups and stick to preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

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Vaccination rates vary from country to country in the Asia-Pacific but there are worrying gaps. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country and once Asia’s COVID-19 epicentre, has fully inoculated only about 35 per cent of its population of 270 million people, reports Reuters.

Australia’s chief medical officer said Omicron was likely to become the dominant variant globally within months, but at this stage, there was no evidence it was any more dangerous than Delta which swept the world earlier this year.

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“I suspect within the (next few) months, Omicron will be the new virus in the world,” Paul Kelly, the top medical advisor to the Australian government, told reporters.

(With inputs from agencies)


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