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The subsequent Covid variant can be extra contagious than omicron, WHO says

RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head a.i. Rising Illnesses and Zoonosis on the World Well being Group (WHO), speaks throughout a information convention on the scenario of the coronavirus on the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The subsequent Covid-19 variant that may rise to world consideration can be extra contagious than omicron, however the true query scientists have to reply is whether or not or not it will likely be extra lethal, World Well being Group officers stated Tuesday.

Roughly 21 million Covid circumstances have been reported to the WHO over the past week, setting a brand new international report for weekly circumstances from the quickly spreading omicron variant, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, stated throughout a livestreamed Q&A throughout the group’s social media channels.

Whereas omicron seems to be much less virulent than earlier strains of the virus, the sheer quantity of circumstances is crushing hospital methods worldwide.

“The subsequent variant of concern can be fitter, and what we imply by that’s it will likely be extra transmissible as a result of it must overtake what’s at present circulating,” Van Kerkhove stated. “The massive query is whether or not or not future variants can be kind of extreme.”

She warned in opposition to shopping for into theories that the virus will proceed to mutate into milder strains that make folks much less sick than earlier variants.

“There isn’t a assure of that. We hope that that’s the case, however there isn’t a assure of that and we won’t financial institution on it,” she stated, noting that individuals ought to heed public security measures within the meantime. What’s extra, the subsequent iteration of Covid may additionally evade vaccine protections much more, making the prevailing vaccines even much less efficient.

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday started testing a Covid vaccine that particularly targets the omicron variant, as considerations develop that the present photographs aren’t holding up in opposition to infections and gentle sickness brought on by the pressure found simply over two months in the past.

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention present in a examine revealed final week {that a} booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was 90% efficient at stopping hospitalization from omicron 14 days after the third shot was administered.

Booster doses are additionally as much as 75% efficient at stopping symptomatic an infection from omicron two to 4 weeks after the third shot, in keeping with knowledge from the U.Ok. Well being Safety Company revealed earlier this month. Nonetheless, the examine discovered that boosters weaken considerably after about 10 weeks, offering 45% to 50% safety in opposition to symptomatic an infection.

Whereas omicron seems to have peaked in some nations, it is gaining floor in others, WHO officers stated. “You will not should put on a masks perpetually and you will not should bodily distance, however for now, we have to preserve doing this,” Van Kerkhove stated.

The virus will proceed to evolve earlier than it settles right into a sample, stated Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO’s director of emergency applications. He stated it’ll hopefully settle right into a low stage of transmission with doubtlessly occasional epidemics. It may turn out to be extra seasonal or could solely have an effect on weak teams, he stated.

The issue, he stated, is that Covid is unpredictable.

“The virus has confirmed to provide us some nasty surprises,” Ryan stated. World well being officers have to proceed monitoring Covid because it evolves, he stated, and be prepared “if there is a nasty shock that we are able to no less than put in place measures once more that may cease this new variant doing any extra harm.”

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