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The measures used to counter the Delta variant should remain the foundation for the fight. coronavirus World Health Organization officials acknowledged on Friday that travel restrictions imposed by some countries could take time.

While nearly three dozen countries across the world have reported omicron infections, including India, on Thursday, the numbers are far lower outside South Africa, which is facing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and where the new version is leading the way. It is possible. Still, much is unclear about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious, as some health officials suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, or whether it is a vaccine. security can be avoided.

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“Border controls can delay the arrival of the virus and buy time,” Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, told reporters during a virtual news conference on Friday. Be ready to bounce.” from Philippines. “The positive news in all of this is that we currently don’t have any information about Omicron to suggest that we need to change the direction of our response.”

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That means emphasizing high vaccination rates, following social-distancing guidelines and wearing masks, among other measures, WHO’s regional emergency director Dr. Babatunde Olovokure said.

He added that health systems “must make sure we’re treating the right patients in the right place at the right time, and therefore must ensure that ICU beds are available, especially for those who need them.”

Butcher warned: “We can’t be complacent.”

The WHO has previously urged against border closures, noting that they often have limited effect and can cause major disruptions. Officials in southern Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified, condemned the ban on travelers to the region, saying they were being punished for alerting the world to the mutant strain.

Butcher said scientists are working furiously to learn more about Omicron, which has been designated a variant of concern because of the number of mutations and preliminary information suggests it is more common than other forms. may be transferable.

Kasai said some countries in the western Pacific are experiencing a surge that began before Omicron was identified, although the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths among many others has declined or decreased. But it may change.

The places that got the variant in the region include Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore And Malaysia – and it’s likely to grow in other places.

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Omicron’s rise is of particular concern to organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which is now nearly two months away.

Beijing is adopting a number of measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus during the Games, organizing committee spokesman Zhao Weidong told reporters at a briefing on Friday.

A passenger arrives to enter a COVID-19 testing center at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 in Incheon, South Korea.

China has adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards COVID-19 transmission and has some of the strictest border controls in the world. Participants of the Games will have to live and compete inside a bubble, and only spectators who are residents of China and who have been vaccinated and tested will be allowed at the venues.

Butcher said cases have been rising globally for seven consecutive weeks and the number of deaths has also started to rise again, largely driven by the delta version and decreased use of protective measures in other parts of the world.

“We shouldn’t be surprised to see more surges in the future,” Kasai said. As long as transmission continues, the virus can mutate, as evidenced by the emergence of Omicron, which requires us to remain vigilant. Reminds me of.”

A man closes his eyes as he receives the Kovidshield vaccine for COVID-19 at a primary health center in Dharamsala, India, Friday, December 3, 2021.

He warned about the possibility of a surge due to overcrowding and movement of people, especially during the holiday season. The northern winter season is more likely to cause COVID-19 as well as other infectious respiratory diseases such as the flu.

“It’s clear this pandemic is not over and I know people are worried about Omicron,” Butcher said. “But my message today is that we can adapt to the way we manage this virus to better deal with future volatility and reduce their health, social and economic impacts.”