WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan urges people not to panic over Omicron

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist on Friday, November 3, 2021, urged people not to panic over the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and said it wastoo early to say if COVID-19 vaccines would have to be modified to fight it.

Speaking in an interview, Soumya Swaminathan also said it was impossible to predict if Omicron would become the dominant strain.

Omicron has gained a foothold in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe and has reached seven of the nine provinces of South Africa, where it was first identified. Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the variant out.

Ms. Swaminathan said that the right response was to be ready.

“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” she said.

“Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”

Much remains unknown about Omicron, which has been detected in more than two dozen countries as parts of Europe grapple with a wave of infections of the more familiar Delta variant.

“We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder … but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Ms. Swaminathan said.

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