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Still high risk

As COVID-19 case numbers shot up by 11 percent globally last week, the World Health Organization warned that the risk posed by the Omicron variant is still “very high.”

Although the Philippines claims to have detected only a handful of cases, there is no denying that Omicron is behind the rapid spikes in several countries, including those where it has already overtaken the previously-dominant Delta variant.

“The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high,” the United Nations health agency said in its COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update.

“Consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days and rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries,” including Britain and the United States where it has become the dominant variant.

“The rapid growth rate is likely to be a combination of both immune evasion and intrinsic increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.”

Although data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark suggested there was a reduced risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to Delta, further data was needed to understand its severity it terms of clinical markers, including the use of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and death. More data is also required on how the severity might be impacted by previous infection or vaccination.

The WHO said that in the week ending Sunday, following a gradual increase since October, the global number of new cases rose by 11 percent compared to the previous week, while the number of new deaths dipped by 4 percent.

As the WHO warns of the threat posed by Omicron, the Philippines’ Department of Health has decided to stop releasing daily COVID-19 case bulletins starting next year, apparently to focus on vaccination. It would seem that our government would rather not remind Filipinos of just how easily the country could backslide into another surge fueled by holiday gatherings, the economy finally reopening and of course, Omicron.

It would be best to assume that Omicron is already here and it has been spreading rapidly, especially over the holidays. The WHO was not joking around when it warned that the risk it poses is “very high” so let us take it upon ourselves take all the necessary precautions so it cannot spread and ruin the pandemic recovery that we have only started to feel in the past few weeks.*

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