Global Response to Omicron Mixed as WHO Confirms Cases in 32 Countries

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Omicron
Courtesy of United States Mission Geneva (Flickr CC0)

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that Omicron variant infections were detected in 38 countries. Makers of the COVID-19 vaccines plan to adjust their product to fight against the new variant.

Despite the threat of another COVID-19 variant existing in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) asked the public not to panic and observe the same proper health and safety protocols. There is no indication that Omicron is a highly transmissible variant. However, the reported positive cases involving 242 international travelers who arrived in the country last November are still subject to further testing for the Omicron variant.

As of Saturday, DOH is waiting for the genome sequencing results on the samples taken from travelers from Egypt, South Africa, and Burkina Faso who tested positive for COVID-19 when they arrived in the country. The test will establish whether the three cases and the 23-year-old overseas Filipino worker who flew in from Africa had the Omicron variant.

Maria Rosario Vergeire, Health Undersecretary, said she believed the Omicron variant had not reached the Philippines yet because there is no spike in cases or sudden increase of infections.

Omicron
Courtesy of Chad Davis (Flickr CC0)

On Saturday, the DOH reported that the country is at a 1.8% positivity rate. For 22 straight days, it is under the 5% benchmark set by the WHO. The course of action to counter the Delta variant was established as the foundation for fighting the coronavirus pandemic and is also used to measure the face of the new Omicron version of the virus.

Unlike any variants that came before Omicron, this version incited global anxiety. However, it is still not confirmed if Omicron is more contagious and evades vaccine protection, according to the WHO.

Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia are among the countries in the Western Pacific region with surges in COVID-19 cases even before the existence of Omicron.

With Beijing Winter Olympic Games about two months away, the emergence of the Omicron variant is of particular concern for organizers. Beijing is adopting measures to reduce the risk that might spread during the Games, said Zhao Weidong,

China has the world’s strictest border control as it adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward COVID-19 transmission. Participants to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games will compete inside a bubble, and only vaccinated and tested spectators from China are allowed at the venue.

Globally, cases have been increasing for seven weeks in a row, and the number of deaths is starting to rise with the decrease of protective measures and more gatherings during the holiday season.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

AP News: WHO says measures used against delta should work for omicron; by Jim Gomez
The Washington Post: How scary is omicron? Scientists are racing to find answers; by Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach

Featured and Top Image by Eric Bridiers Courtesy of United States Mission Geneva’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Chad Davis’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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