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The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has already been detected in 57 countries and the number of patients requiring hospitalization is likely to increase as it spreads, which is only a matter of time, they warn.
The WHO warns of the high possibility of reinfection that the new variant appears to have and exemplifies in the organization's weekly epidemiological report that the 212 confirmed cases in 18 countries of the European Union (EU) were in people with mild or even asymptomatic symptoms.
The global entity warns, however, that although the Omicron variant may cause fewer severe cases than Delta, which is currently predominant, it could increase hospitalizations and deaths if, as feared, it is more contagious and causes more infections in general.
In the last 60 days, of the 900,000 COVID-19 cases tested by the GISAID global laboratory network, more than 99 percent are still caused by the Delta variant and just 713 (0.1 percent) belong to Omicron, although those numbers may change rapidly.
In this regard, they note that this number is considerably higher than that indicated by WHO a week ago, when GISAID had identified only 14 cases of Omicron and the variant already outnumbers others previously detected, such as Alpha or Gamma.
It is yet to be seen how and whether the latest #COVID19 variant of concern, Omicron, will be more transmissible, or more or less severe @hans_kluge
The WHO cites forecasts from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which expects Omicron to become the dominant variant in the EU with more than 50 percent of cases between January and March 2022, although it will depend on the level of transmissibility the variant ends up having.
The body responsible for global health highlights the sharp increase in cases in southern African countries, the region where Omicron was first detected: not only South Africa, where cases have doubled in one week (111 percent more), but also Eswatini (1,990 percent), Zimbabwe (1,361 percent), Mozambique (1,207 percent), Namibia (681 percent) and Lesotho (219 percent).
They also point out that an element of concern about the new variant is its apparently high level of re-infection, i.e. the ability to infect people who have already had the disease before and have therefore developed natural antibodies against the virus causing COVID-19.