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Omicron variant could outcompete Delta – South African expert

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EU Chief calls for debate on making jabs mandatory

SOUTH AFRICA: The Omicron coronavirus variant detected in southern Africa could be the most likely candidate to displace the highly contagious Delta variant, the director of South Africa’s communicable disease institute said on Tuesday.

The discovery of Omicron has caused global alarm, with countries limiting travel from southern Africa for fear it could spread quickly even in vaccinated populations and the World Health Organization saying it carries a high risk of infection surges.

“We thought,” What will outcompete Delta? That has always been the question, in terms of transmissibility at least, … perhaps this particular variant is the variant,” Adrian Puren, acting executive director of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said in an interview.

If Omicron proves even more transmissible than the Delta variant, it could lead to a sharp spike in infections that could put pressure on hospitals. Puren said scientists should know within four weeks to what extent Omicron can evade the immunity generated by vaccines or prior infection, and whether it leads to worse clinical symptoms than other variants.

Anecdotal accounts by doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients say Omicron appears to be producing mild symptoms, including a dry cough, fever and night sweats, but experts have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions.

Puren said it was too early to say whether Omicron was displacing Delta in South Africa, since local scientists have only produced 87 sequences of Omicron so far. But the fact that cases have started to rise rapidly, especially in the most populated Gauteng province, is a sign that some displacement might already be happening. South Africa has been praised for alerting the global scientific community and WHO so quickly to Omicron — a brave move given the damage that travel restrictions imposed by multiple countries including Britain will do to its important tourism sector.

Meanwhile, It is time for the European Union to “think about mandatory vaccination” against Covid, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday, while stressing that member state governments would decide. “My personal position is… I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now,” she told a media conference, underlining that a third of the EU population of 450 million was still unvaccinated. “How can we encourage and potentially think about mandatory vaccination within the European Union? This needs discussion. This needs a common approach. But it is a discussion that I think has to be led,” she said.

– NDTV

 

Friday, December 3, 2021 – 01:00











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