Omicron spreads in US, Australia

The Nation  |  Dec 04, 2021

Washington - The United States and Australia announced their first locally transmitted cases of the Omicron variant as authorities worldwide rushed on Friday to stem the spread of the heavily mutated Covid-19 strain.

The World Health Organization has warned it could take weeks to determine whether Omicron is more transmissible and whether it causes more severe infections -- as well as how effective current treatments and vaccines are against it. The WHO said Friday it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to Omicron, but the new variant, present in more than two dozen countries, has cast recovery into doubt and led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.

A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the new variant was first reported on November 24, suggests the strain is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.

Doctors there said there had been a spike in the number of children under five admitted to hospital since Omicron emerged, but stressed it was too early to know if young children were particularly susceptible, although infections have spread faster than in previous waves.

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