The World Health Organization (WHO) warned this Tuesday that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus would result in a “large number of hospitalizations,” even if it turns out to be slightly less serious than Delta.
“The rapid increase in omicron, as we are seeing in many countries, even if combined with a slightly less severe disease, would still result in a significant number of hospitalizations, particularly among the unvaccinated,” said Catherine Smallwood, a senior WHO official. Europe.
Faced with uncertainty about the new variant first discovered in late November in South Africa, countries are oscillating between tough restrictions and a more flexible strategy due to the less intense signals from Omicron.
“It is too early to say whether an omicron wave will be more or less intense than a delta,” Smallwood told AFP.
Smallud noted that “preliminary data on the first affected populations in Europe”, England, Scotland and Denmark show that Omicron “may result in a lower risk of hospitalization compared to Delta.”
However, the emergency response specialist urged that these preliminary data be treated “with caution”, because the cases currently observed are mainly in “young and healthy populations in countries with high vaccination rates”.
“We still haven’t seen the impact that Micron will have on the most vulnerable: the elderly who are not yet fully vaccinated,” he said.
A month after it was identified in South Africa, scientists are beginning to gain a better understanding of the Omicron variant, considering it to be more contagious and possibly less virulent, but without being able to quantify how much it will change in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preliminary studies from South Africa, Scotland and England last week show that Omicron appears to be causing fewer hospitalizations than Delta.
According to these data, which are still not very complete and should be treated with caution, according to specialists, microns can be 35%-80% less than delta.
But other experts point out that additional infections could negate the advantage of a less-risky alternative, when many countries have reported record cases since the start of the pandemic.
Experts also do not know if the less pronounced severity is due to intrinsic characteristics of the variant, or whether it is related to the fact that it is targeting a population already partially immune through the vaccine or a previous infection.
Since the South African authorities raised the alert, Ómicron has been detected in at least 110 countries, including Portugal, where it already dominates.
“Hardcore alcohol maven. Hipster-friendly analyst. Introvert. Devoted social media advocate.”