The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Omicron variant of COVID-19 was spreading at an unprecedented rate and urged countries to act swiftly to rein in the transmission. Omicron, which was first detected by South Africa and reported to the WHO in November, has a large number of mutations, setting alarm bells ringing since its discovery.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the strain had been reported in 77 countries and had probably spread to most nations undetected at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant.
The WHO also provided room for cautious optimism, saying, Africa had recorded a massive rise in cases over the past week but a lower number of deaths compared with previous waves. But it urged countries to act swiftly to rein in transmission and protect their health systems and warned against complacency.
WHO expert Bruce Aylward cautioned against jumping to a conclusion that this is a mild disease. He said, people could be setting themselves up for a very dangerous situation.
Meanwhile, Europe has become the world’s coronavirus hotspot. It has recorded 62 percent of the world’s total Covid cases in the past seven days, while the five countries with the world’s highest infection rates are all European.
The Netherlands followed other European nations in reintroducing restrictions yesterday as Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced primary schools will shut next week and a night-time lockdown will be extended amid Omicron fears.
France yesterday registered 63,405 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily total since April.
In neighbouring Britain, the ruling Conservative government suffered a major parliamentary rebellion as almost 100 of its MPs rejected new COVID restrictions as the country responds to Omicron. The Boris Johnson administration will introduce new rules on mask-wearing, daily testing to avoid isolation and vaccine passes for certain places in England.