The new variant of Corona Virus is now being detected in 89 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO said Covid-19 cases involving the new variant Omicron are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission, and not just infections that were acquired abroad.
“Omicron’s ‘substantial growth advantage’ over the delta variant means it is likely to overtake delta soon as the dominant form of the virus in countries where the new variant is spreading locally,” WHO said as it noted that the new variant is spreading rapidly even in countries with high vaccination rates.
But WHO said it still remains unclear what causes the rapid growth of omicron cases.
“It could be because the variant evades existing immunity or it is inherently more transmissible than previous variants, or a combination of both,” WHO said.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) announced the country’s third Omicron case, an overseas Filipino worker who arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Nov. 28 from Qatar.
The 36-year-old male OFW has a travel history to Egypt but is reportedly asymptomatic. Three of his close contacts have already been identified but were tested negative of the virus.
The DOH said the OFW is unvaccinated but he was encouraged to get the jabs.
Even with the recorded new Omicron case, the DOH said this is not alarming since it is still the delta variant that is dominant in the Philippines.
In Europe, Omicron is seen to be the dominant variant in the European Union’s 27 nations by mid-January of 2022.
According to Dr. Jenny Harries, head of the U.K. Health Security Agency, omicron is displaying a staggering growth rate compared to previous variants of corona virus.
“The difficulty is that the growth of this virus, it has a doubling time which is shortening, i.e. it’s doubling faster, growing faster. In most regions in the U.K., it is now under two days. When it started, we were estimating about four or five,” Harries said, citing that this new variant poses “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic.”
Based on a data analysis from South Africa, where the new variant was first reported, Omicron seems to spread easily from person to person and is better at evading vaccines while causing less serious illness.
“Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We are concerned that people are dismissing omicron as mild. Surely we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.