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Omicron reaches 38 countries

The WHO has said it will take several weeks to determine how infectious Omicron is, and to assess how vaccines, tests, and treatments hold up against it

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FLIGHT crew from Air China arrive in hazmat suits in the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday as Los Angeles County reported its first case of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron. / FREDERIC J. BROWN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — Omicron has been detected in 38 countries but there are no reported deaths so far from the new Covid-19 variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.

A WHO spokesperson told reporters that the UN health agency had “not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet”.

And Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said Omicron had been reported in 38 countries, with the variant now spread across all six WHO regions.

The WHO has said it will take several weeks to determine how infectious Omicron is, and to assess how vaccines, tests, and treatments hold up against it.

But it insisted Friday that scientists were well on top of it and would be able to produce those answers soon.

“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.

“We need to trust in the science now and be patient and not be fearful.”

‘Too soon’
Van Kerkhove told viewers on social media there were some suggestions that the variant was showing increased transmissibility — but it would take a few more days to get a clear picture.

As for severity, the initial reports came from a cluster of university students and younger people tend to present milder disease, she said.

Of the mild Omicron cases found so far, Van Kerkhove said they were mainly travelers — and people who were sick would not be getting on planes in the first place.

Therefore, it is “really too soon” to draw conclusions about Omicron’s severity, she said.

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