Knowing the Omicron

True to the WHO’s declaration about the capability of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant to spread faster than any previous strain, we are perhaps seeing a similar development here too with many new cases of the Covid-19 proliferating and emerging from many parts of the country this week.

As of Friday night, the health ministry announced about detecting 141 new cases of Covid-19 (in the last 24 hours). The numbers are only increasing going by the health ministry’s announcements of having detected 88 new cases on Thursday and 59 new cases on Wednesday.

A respite for now, based on studies from around the world, is that Omicron is less severe; meaning that even if we get Omicron, then we are less likely to become seriously ill than with previous variants. Studies also show that the Omicron is milder than the Delta variant, with a 30% to 70% lower chance of people infected ending up in hospital.

However, the problem with the Omicron is that it is highly transmissible and infectious. It can cause a sheer number of cases that can overwhelm unprepared health systems. Further, what is worrying for the country is that 19.7% of the population are still unvaccinated, including children between five to 11 years of age, who remained highly susceptible to the infection.

Another difficulty posed by the Omicron is in detecting if we are really infected because the symptoms of the Omicron appear to be more like a cold for some people, with common reported symptoms comprising a sore throat, runny nose and a headache.

As it is in the fall and during the winter months when cold and flu infections become more common in the country, it is important,  therefore, for every one of us to get to a flu center and get one tested if one appears to have such symptoms. We cannot take these symptoms for granted as that of a common cold and risk transmitting the disease.

Another difficulty posed by the Omicron is that the vaccines alone will not protect countries from Omicron. This has even been confirmed by the WHO.

While we have 74% of the eligible population (above 12 years) in   the country, who have received both vaccination doses, it is found   that the Omicron variant significantly reduces the protection against infection provided by Pfizer and BioNTech’s  two-dose vaccine, and    a study also found the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines less effective against the Omicron.

However, scientists still affirm that the two-dose vaccines are likely to protect people against severe disease and that a booster shot provides significant levels of protection against the Omicron infection.

The priority for now, meanwhile, seems to at least prevent the transmission of the virus and expedite the booster dose vaccination for the remaining population.