Top United States immunologist Anthony Fauci on Tuesday, 7 December, said that early indications suggest that the new Omicron COVID-19 variant would not have more severe effects than the previous strains of the coronavirus.
The infectious diseases expert told news agency AFP that while Omicron appears to be "clearly highly transmissible," likely more so than Delta, it "almost certainly is not more severe than Delta."
"There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe, because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations seems to be less than with Delta," he was quoted as saying.
Fauci noted that it would take weeks to assess the severity of the new variant.
"As we get more infections throughout the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what's the level of severity," he told AFP.
The World Health Organization on 26 November had named the recently detected B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 'Omicron,' after the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The variant, first reported in South Africa, has been declared a "variant of concern" by the WHO.
"This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa," the WHO said in a statement.
Meanwhile, India has reported 23 cases of Omicron, as per the latest official figures.
(With inputs from AFP)