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Updated on: Monday, December 13, 2021, 03:13 PM IST

Omicron appears to have a growth advantage over Delta variant, says WHO

The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as of December 9.
World Health Organization | Photo: AFP

World Health Organization | Photo: AFP

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The World Health Organization on Sunday said preliminary data on Omicron variant of COVID-19 showed lower vaccine efficacy and higher transmission of the variant but severity of Covid-19 diseases due to the new variant is on the lower side.

“Omicron appears to have a growth advantage over Delta. It is spreading faster than the Delta variant in South Africa where Delta circulation was low, but also appears to spread more quickly than the Delta variant in other countries where the incidence of Delta is high, such as in the United Kingdom,” the WHO said in a statement after examining the current evidence on omicron.

“Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs.”

The strain has been described as a 'variant of concern' by the WHO on November 26 two days after it was first detected in South Africa.

On the vaccine efficacy, the world body said preliminary evidence suggested a reduction in vaccine efficacy against infection and transmission associated with Omicron. There is some preliminary evidence that the incidence of reinfection has increased in South Africa, which may be associated with humoral (antibody-mediated) immune evasion.

The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as of December 9. Faster transmission was noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent, and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.

But it stressed that a lack of data meant it could not say if Omicron's rate of transmission was because it was less prone to immune responses, higher transmissibility or a combination of both.

"Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs," it added.

Omicron infections have so far caused "mild" illness or asymptomatic cases, but the WHO said the data was insufficient to establish the variant's clinical severity.

With Agency Inputs

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Published on: Monday, December 13, 2021, 03:13 PM IST
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