The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday urged countries, including Nigeria, not to panic but to prepare for the likely spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant as scientists continue to study it.
Speaking in Geneva, WHO spokesperson, Christian Lindmeier stressed that data suggesting that Omicron was highly transmissible was only preliminary.
Lindmeier repeated that it would take another two weeks before more is known about how transmissible and how dangerous it actually is.
He also reiterated WHO advice against blanket travel bans, except for countries whose health systems were unable to withstand a surge in infections.
“It is much more preferred to prepare your country, your health system for possible incoming cases because we can be pretty sure that this Omicron variant will spread around,” he said.
The Delta mutation – declared a variant of concern this summer – is now “predominant”, Lindmeier added, “with over 90 per cent all around the world.
“This is how this virus behaves and we will most likely not be able to keep it out of individual countries.”
The WHO official also cautioned against knee-jerk reactions to reports that Omicron had continued to spread.
“Let’s not get deterred right now, let us first get as much information as possible to make the correct risk assessment based on the information that we will have and then let’s move on.
Let’s not get completely worried or confused by individual information which are all individually important, but which need to be brought together in order to assess together,” he said.
The development comes as WHO said that it was sending a technical surge team to South Africa’s Gauteng province to monitor Omicron and help with contact tracing amid a spike in coronavirus reinfections.
For the seven days leading to Nov. 30, South Africa reported a 311 per cent increase in new cases, compared with the previous seven days, WHO said on Thursday.
Cases in Gauteng province, where Johannesburg is located, have increased by 375 per cent week on week.