WHO urges countries to take ‘rational’ measures against Omicron risk

Blanket measures not based on evidence penalising southern Africa – Ghebreyusus

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: ‘We still have more questions than answers about the effect of Omicron.’ Photograph: Christopher Black/World Health Organisation/AFP via Getty

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: ‘We still have more questions than answers about the effect of Omicron.’ Photograph: Christopher Black/World Health Organisation/AFP via Getty

 

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) voiced concern on Tuesday that some states are introducing blanket measures aimed at the Omicron coronavirus variant that he said were “not evidence-based or effective on their own”.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries were penalising southern African countries that reported the strain so quickly.

Mr Ghebreyesus, in a speech to the WHO’s 194 member states, urged them to take “rational, proportional risk-reduction measures” in keeping with the agency’s 2005 International Health Regulations.

“We still have more questions than answers about the effect of Omicron on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines,” he said in remarks posted on the WHO website.

The variant first found in southern Africa has now been identified in several countries including Scotland, Australia and Japan.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it is likely already in Ireland, but a case has not been officially confirmed.

Some countries have imposed travel bans from southern Africa in response to the new variant, sparking concerns that scientists will not be so transparent about mutations of the virus to avoid backlash.

Dr Allison Glass, a clinical virologist at the laboratory in South Africa where the Omicron variant was detected, said: “It’s disappointing that we’re being punished for being on top of what’s happening.”

Dr Glass said on Monday that people who have tested positive for the variant are showing mild symptoms so far, and there is no evidence that the Omicron variant causes more severe disease. – Reuters