Omicron variant poses ‘very high’ risk amid fears it will fuel new ‘severe surges’, WHO warns

THE highly mutated Omicron Covid variant is of "very high" risk for the world, the World Health Organisation has warned.

In a report published yesterday on "readiness for Omicron", the WHO warned future surges are likely.

The worrying report said: "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.

"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 overall global risk related to the new VOC Omicron is assessed as very high."

It is the most evolved so far with 50 mutations, 32 of which are of particular concern, and could be worse than Delta, experts have warned.

Scientists say the "horrific" new variant is "better at infecting vaccinated people" – but the extent to which will not be clear for weeks.

Some experts compared it to the Beta variant, which originated in South Africa in late 2020, which saw vaccine efficacy reduced by 30 to 40 per cent.

It comes as director general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom urged all nations to share their vaccine supply.

He said today the world doesn't need lockdowns and instead needs to use each other's knowledge and science to beat the virus.

Dr Adhanom said: "The best way we can address them is with a legally binding agreement between all nations.

"An agreement that we have no future but a common future. No one gets everything they want but that's better than somebody missing out on something they need.

"The time has come for countries to come together and agree on a common approach"

Boris Johnson introduced a range of measures to slow the spread on Saturday – with nine confirmed cases in the UK.

Brits must now wear masks in shops and on public transport, while anyone who comes into contact with a person who tests positive for Omicron is to isolate for 10 days.


Travellers arriving in the UK from anywhere in the world must take a PCR test by the end of their second day in the country and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Elsewhere, a minister has today admitted the UK "can't stop" the spread of Omicron.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has so far dismissed calls for a further lockdown as infections and hospitalisations are “nowhere near” the level required.

He yesterday said people "should continue with their plans for normal as Christmas" – but warned it would be "irresponsible" for him to guarantee there'll be no further restrictions in the future.

The worrying new variant has now been spotted in 14 countries – with global travel being restricted to stop the viral spread.

The UK has put ten countries on the red list – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia.

The US, Australia, India and much of Europe has brought in travel bans, quarantines and extra screenings.

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