Science & Technology

WHO warns that variants of the Omicron virus pose a “very high” risk

Geneva (AP) —The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the global risk of Omicron mutants was “very high,” based on early evidence, and the mutated coronavirus surged with “serious consequences.” Said that it could lead to.

The evaluation from the United Nations Health Organization, contained in technical papers published to Member States, has become WHO’s most powerful and most obvious warning about the new version, first identified a few days ago by South African researchers. rice field.

It’s like an expanding circle of countries around the world reporting cases of variants and closing doors with a later-acting approach while scientists are competing to understand how dangerous mutant versions are. It moved to.

Japan has announced that it will join Israel and ban all foreign visitors from entering the country. Morocco has banned all arrival flights. Other countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, have moved to ban the arrival of travelers from southern Africa.

WHO said there is “significant uncertainty” about Omicron variants. However, preliminary evidence states that it increases the likelihood that a mutant will have a mutation that may help avoid a reaction in the immune system and increase its ability to spread from one person to another. ..

“Depending on these characteristics, future spikes in COVID-19 can occur and can have serious consequences, depending on many factors, including where the spikes can occur. I added. “The overall global risk is … rated very high.”

WHO emphasized that the country should accelerate vaccination as soon as possible while scientists are looking for evidence to better understand this variant.

No deaths associated with Omicron have been reported so far, but little is known about this variant, whether it is highly contagious, likely to cause serious illness, or avoid vaccines. .. Last week, the WHO advisory board said it was likely to re-infect people who had already had a seizure with COVID-19.

Scientists have long warned that the virus will continue to find new ways to exploit the weaknesses of the world’s vaccination drives. The discovery in Africa occurred on a continent where less than 7% of the population is vaccinated.

“The emergence of Omicron variants exactly met the predictions of scientists who warned that increased transmission of the virus in areas with restricted access to vaccines would accelerate its evolution,” the UN said. CEPI, one of the founders of the global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX to support.

Spain became one of the latest countries to report the first confirmed case of Omicron on Monday, detected in travelers returning from South Africa on Sunday after a stopover in Amsterdam.

Most of the Omicron infections recorded worldwide are from travelers arriving abroad, but cases in Portugal and Scotland raise concerns that this variant may already be prevalent locally. Is causing.

“Many of us may think that COVID-19 is over. It’s not done with us,” warned WHO Secretary Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes.

The market responded on Monday, a few days after the variant shook the financial world for nearly two years and a pandemic that killed more than 5 million people. European stocks rebounded and Wall Street opened higher, but Asian markets fell further.

President of the United States Joe Biden I called the Omicron variant a source of concern, but “it’s not the cause of panic.” He did not consider the widespread US blockade and instead wore a mask, even if a federal judge prevented his administration from imposing the requirement that thousands of health workers in 10 states be shot. Said he urged vaccination.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encourages everyone over the age of 18 to take booster shots because “strong immunity is likely to prevent serious illness.” By doing so, we have responded to potential threats. Earlier this month, the United States opened boosters to all adults, but recommended boosters only to people over the age of 50 or caregivers.

Omicron infection emphasizes the difficulty of continuing to control the virus in a globalized world of jet travel and open borders. However, many countries are trying to do just that, contrary to WHO’s request, which points out that border closures are often limited in effectiveness and can cause havoc on livelihoods and livelihoods.

Some argue that such restrictions can spend valuable time analyzing new variants.

The first global response to COVID-19 was criticized for being slow and unplanned, but the response to the Omicron variant was immediate.

“This time the world has shown that it is learning,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to praise South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. “South Africa’s analytical work, transparency, and sharing of the results were essential to enable a swift global response.”

At the end of last week, Von der Leyen successfully reached the EU in 27 countries to agree to ban flights from seven countries in southern Africa, as many other countries do. I pushed it.

Cases have been reported in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, etc., and authorities have identified 13 Omicron infections among members of the Berenenses Pro Soccer Team.

Japan, which missed a chance and has not yet detected the Omicron incident, re-imposed relaxed border control earlier this month.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, “We are taking steps as an emergency precaution to prevent the worst in Japan.”

Israel has also decided to ban foreigners from entering the country, saying Morocco will suspend all arriving flights for two weeks.

The UK has responded by extending the COVID-19 booster program to everyone over the age of 18 and targeting millions of people. So far, booster shots have only been available to people over the age of 40 and those who are particularly susceptible to the virus. The United Kingdom reports about 12 cases of Omicron.

Despite global concerns, South African doctors have so far reported that patients suffer from almost mild symptoms. But they warn that it’s early. Also, most new cases are in the 20s and 30s, and COVID-19 is generally less ill than older patients.

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo and Kazart from Brussels. Associated Press journalists around the world have contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO warns that variants of the Omicron virus pose a “very high” risk WHO warns that variants of the Omicron virus pose a “very high” risk

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