World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier announced on Friday that the agency has “not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” as he laid out its verdict on the response to the new strain.
Speaking at a UN briefing, Lindmeier provided an update on the spread of the new Covid-19 strain, after it was listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO. Despite the introduction of various curbs aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, he warned that vaccine manufacturers might need to prepare for a change in their existing jabs to combat new mutations.
Addressing fears about the latest variant, Lindmeier said the WHO has “not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths,” even though it is feared that it is more contagious than the widespread Delta strain.
Still, the agency’s Western Pacific director, Takeshi Kasai, urged governments to rethink their approach to combating the strain. “Border controls can buy time but every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” he told reporters, warning that governments “should not only rely on border measures” to halt Omicron’s spread.
Instead, Kasai called for officials to turn their focus to fully vaccinating vulnerable individuals and returning to preventative measures, including mask wearing and social distancing, to reduce transmission risk.
The WHO’s statement on Omicron comes after South African health officials raised concerns that it is reinfecting people at three times the rate of other strains, evading immunity provided by previous infections.