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The omicron variant might cause global COVID-19 surges, experts say

The omicron variant could likely spread around the world, causing surges in multiple countries

Passengers in Lisbon’s international airport.
Passengers exit Lisbon’s international airport on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. There is concern the omicron variant could likely spread around the world.
Armando Franca, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus might spread quickly across the world, causing global surges in multiple countries at once, according to the World Health Organization.

  • “Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said in a statement Sunday.
  • “Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the WHO said.

Researchers in South Africa announced the discovery of a new coronavirus variant over the weekend, which the WHO later named “omicron” after the Greek alphabet letter. Since then, the world has been keeping an eye on the variant to see how dangerous it might be.

So far, there is little data about the new omicron variant. Scientists said it has mostly created mild symptoms and there have been no deaths linked to the virus.

The Washington Post reported that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that the omicron variant “underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is,”

  • “We’re living through a cycle of panic and neglect,” he said. “Hard-won gains could vanish in an instant. Our most immediate task, therefore, is to end this pandemic.”