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Omicron variant is super infectious but impossible to predict, WHO chief scientist says

The omicron variant has forced WHO to be prepared for all scenarios

SHARE Omicron variant is super infectious but impossible to predict, WHO chief scientist says
A sign to wear face masks is pictued in London.

A sign requiring people to wear face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus is displayed in the Westminster underground station in London on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.

Matt Dunham, Associated Press

The new coronavirus variant appears to be more transmissible, but the world should not panic over its spread yet, said Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist.

Per Reuters, Swaminathan said that countries should boost their health care systems and vaccine people as soon as possible to stop the spread.

  • “How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” Swaminathan told Reuters.

Swaminathan said the world needs to wait for more data and research on the omicron variant before making conclusions, especially if the variant can surpass the delta variant.

  • “We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder ... but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,” Swaminathan said of what was known about omicron.
  • “Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”

Dr. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told NPR that the omicron variant might be the most infectious variant yet.

  • “Everyone is afraid that omicron will be significantly more transmissible than delta. Upon first impression, it looks like it could be,” he said. “But that could be totally wrong. Right now, nobody knows. The problem is that our data is very limited.”

South African researchers first announced the discovery of omicron over Thanksgiving weekend, as I wrote for the Deseret News. The scientists said the variant had a number of mutations, which worried experts because of its potential for spreading and evading vaccines.