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The following Covid variant will likely be extra contagious than omicron, WHO says

RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head ai 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 following Covid-19 variant that may rise to world consideration will likely be extra contagious than omicron, however the actual query scientists have to reply is whether or not or not will probably 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 programs worldwide.

“The following variant of concern will likely be more healthy, and what we imply by that’s will probably be extra transmissible as a result of it should overtake what’s at present circulating,” Van Kerkhove stated. “The large query is whether or not or not future variants will likely be roughly extreme.”

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

“There isn’t any 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 might also evade vaccine protections much more, making the prevailing vaccines even much less efficient.

Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday began testing a Covid vaccine that particularly targets the omicron variant, as issues develop that the present pictures aren’t holding up towards infections and delicate sickness attributable to the pressure found simply over two months in the past.

The US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention present in a research printed 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 response to information from the UK Well being Safety Company printed earlier this month. Nevertheless, the research discovered that boosters weaken considerably after about 10 weeks, offering 45% to 50% safety towards symptomatic an infection.

Whereas omicron seems to have peaked in some international locations, it is gaining floor in others, WHO officers stated. “You will not should put on a masks ceaselessly 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 packages. He stated it would hopefully settle right into a low degree of transmission with probably occasional epidemics. It may grow 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 offer 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 will at the least put in place measures once more that may cease this new variant doing any extra injury.”

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