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People offer prayers on the first business day of the year at the Kanda Myojin shrine on January 4 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT
People offer prayers on the first business day of the year at the Kanda Myojin shrine on January 4 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT

Geneva — More evidence is emerging that the Omicron coronavirus variant is affecting the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Tuesday.

"We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike the other ones, which could cause severe pneumonia," WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists, saying it could be "good news".

However, he added that Omicron’s high transmissibility meant it would become dominant within weeks in many places, posing a threat in countries where a high portion of the population remained unvaccinated.

His remarks on the reduced risk of severe disease chimed with other data including a study from SA, which was one of the first countries in which Omicron was detected.

However, Mahamud also sounded a note of caution, calling SA an “outlier” since it has a young population, among other factors.

Asked about whether an Omicron-specific vaccine were needed, Mahamud said it was too early to say but stressed that the decision required global co-ordination and should not be left to the commercial sector to decide alone. 

Reuters

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