0453 GMT January 25, 2022
Omicron is spreading rapidly in countries with high levels of population immunity, but it is unclear if this is due to the virus’s ability to evade immunity, its inherently increased transmissibility, or a combination of both, the WHO said in an update.
The agency designated Omicron a variant of concern on Nov. 26, soon after it was first detected, and much is still not known about it, including the severity of the illness it causes.
“There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron,” the WHO said. “More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is impacted by vaccination and pre-existing immunity.”
It added, “There are still limited available data, and no peer-reviewed evidence, on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness to date for Omicron.”
The WHO warned that with cases rising so rapidly, hospitals could be overwhelmed in some places.
“Hospitalizations in the UK and South Africa continue to rise, and given rapidly increasing case counts, it is possible that many health care systems may become quickly overwhelmed.”
Omicron variant is spreading quickly in Italy, with new cases identified in the country’s north and south, the country’s national health institute (ISS) said on Saturday.
The ISS reported that its network of regional laboratories had so far identified 84 Omicron cases, “a strong acceleration” from 55 early on Friday.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday the Omicron variant is now suspected to be responsible for up to 10% of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in France and is the main reason behind plans for stricter health requirements for entering some venues.
Ukraine also detected its first case of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said on Saturday.