The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the new variant, poses a ‘severe’ risk to the world’s pandemic recovery and the odds of it being infectious enough to spread quickly are ‘very high.’
Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa but is thought to have originated in Botswana, is the most-mutated form of Covid yet found and has been declared a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO because early data suggests it is more infectious than the Delta strain.
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the variant is fueling a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations in hot spots within the country. A public health official there told the Wall Street Journal that the share of people going to the hospital with Covid in recent days lines up with virus waves driven by previous variants.
The number of children hospitalized with Covid has also risen sharply around South African’s capital city of Pretoria, though the NICD said not all are at risk of severe disease and some cases could just be out of an abundance of caution.
When Biden addressed the US on Monday he said: ‘You have to get your vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster,’ Biden said, speaking to the nation from the White House Roosevelt Room, which is now features a fireplace mantle decked out with holiday decorations.
‘Sooner or later we’re going to see new cases of this variant here in the United States,’ Biden predicted, a day after it had been identified in Canada.