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Post Claiming Omicron is 'Deadlier' Than Earlier COVID-19 Variants is False

The claims made in the post are exaggerated, false and likely to cause panic.

Published
WebQoof
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Fact-Check | A claim going viral on social media says Omicron variant is highly infectious and fatal.</p></div>
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(Before you read this – here's a personal appeal. Our vaccine misinformation project targeting rural women in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam is high on costs and resources. Please support this special project, so we can continue to tell stories that matter. Thank you – Team WebQoof)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, 26 November, named the recently detected B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19 'Omicron', while adding that it is not sure whether the variant is more transmissible or severe compared to Delta and other previous variants of the virus.

However, several social media posts have gone viral claiming that the Omicron is highly infectious and deadly. The viral post poses to be message from the "a doctors' group from RSA (Republic of South Africa)".

We found that the claims made in the viral posts were the similar to those that were shared when the Delta variant of the virus was raising an alarm all over the world. The viral text was debunked by The Quint's WebQoof team.

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CLAIM

The viral posts said, "The new variant Omicron (SARS-CoV-2) has more energy, tactics and camouflage. We don't cough. No fever, it's joint pain, weakness, loss of appetite and Covid pneumonia! Of course, the death rate is higher, it takes less time to get to the extreme. Sometimes no symptoms ... let's be careful."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>An archive of the post can be found <a href="https://perma.cc/S25R-C2XW">here</a>.</p></div>

An archive of the post can be found here.

(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

The claim goes on to explain how the variant is "deadlier" than previously found variants.

More such posts can be seen on Facebook and Twitter, archives of which can be found here, here and here.

We also received the same post, albeit in Hindi, on our WhatsApp number.

WHAT WE FOUND OUT

The B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, Omicron, has been designated a variant of concern (VOC) by the WHO. The variant, which was first found in South Africa, has now been reported in a few other countries like - the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Netherland etc.

According to the WHO, the reason for referring to Omicron as a VOC was that it has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves.

However, as per WHO's latest bulletin, published on 28 November, scientists in WHO and South Africa are still studying the variant to find out more about the transmissibility and severity of the same.

Apart from the increased number of mutations, WHO has said that preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.

There has been no official statement from the WHO that states that the variant is more severe or fatal than the previously available ones.

Later on 29 November, the WHO released a technical paper on the variant and said that 'overall global risk related to Omicron is assessed as very high'. It advised all the member countries to increase surveillance, promote COVID-appropriate behaviour and push for vaccination.

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A South African doctor who first reported the variant in the country spoke with The Telegraph and said that the symptoms of the new variant were unusual, but mild.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Association, told the daily that the symptoms included fatigue and high temperature, while the usual symptoms of loss of taste and smell were not reported in the new variant.

As per scientists, we currently don't have enough research on the variant to determine if the it is more fatal or risky.

SAME TEXT WAS VIRAL DURING THE DELTA VARIANT

The same text was viral when the Delta variant was spreading across the globe. The viral text back then also claimed that Delta variant was deadlier than the previous variants and could not be identified with an RT-PCR test.

However, studies conducted by the WHO and health authorities around the world showed that the claims made in the viral posts were either false or misleading.

The claims viral in both the contexts ended with an advisory about using two masks, maintaining social distancing and washing or sanitising of hands.

This advice is true and falls in line with the recommendations provided by health authorities across the world. By taking the vaccine and following these steps, we can ensure the virus does not mutate further.

But the rest of the text in the post is exaggerated, alarming and likely to cause panic. Thus, it's important to follow all the protocols, get vaccinated but also not cause panic or rely on such forwards.

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(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women. It was flagged to us by our partner organisation Video Volunteers.)

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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