WHO says no one has yet died from Omicron variant despite the new Covid strain being spotted in 38 countries

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  • US and Australia become latest countries to confirm local transmission of Omicron Covid strain
  • India today confirmed its third Omicron infection with cases seen in Sri Lanka, South Korea and Malaysia
  • The World Health Organization warns it could take weeks to determine how contagious the type is

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that despite the strain in 38 countries, no one has died with the new super mutant Omicron Kovid variant.

The US and Australia became the latest countries to confirm locally transmitted cases of the variant, as Omicron infections pushed South Africa’s total cases past three million.

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And India today confirmed its third Omicron infection, cases of which have now also been seen in Sri Lanka, South Korea and Malaysia.

The WHO warned that it could take weeks to determine how contagious the variant is, whether it causes more severe disease and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.

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WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said: “We’re going to get the answers that everyone out there needs.”

The WHO said yesterday that it still had not seen any reports of Omicron-related deaths, but the spread of the new variant warned it could account for more than half of Europe’s Covid cases in the next few months.

International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday that the new version could also slow the global economic recovery, as did delta tensions.

“Even before this new version came out, we were concerned that the recovery, while it continues, is losing some momentum,” she said.

‘A new version that can spread too fast can undermine confidence.’

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Omicron variant has now been discovered in 38 countries, but has not yet resulted in any deaths.

Data in South Africa shows the R-rate has jumped more than three percent in recent weeks as Omicron takes hold in Gauteng province

Data in South Africa shows the R-rate has jumped more than three percent in recent weeks as Omicron takes hold in Gauteng province

Official data shows that the proportion of positive COVID tests with mutations synonymous with the highly developed strain is increasing.  Like the alpha or 'kent variant', the omicron has a specific mutation meaning it can be detected through PCR tests without the need for genomic sequencing.  With this so-called S-gene dropout the proportion of positive tests in England has risen from 0.1 per cent in the past week to 0.3 per cent, which equates to one in 330.  The increase in S-gene dropouts suggests there may be hundreds of oomicron cases that are currently flying under the radar, scientists said.

Official data shows that the proportion of positive COVID tests with mutations synonymous with the highly developed strain is increasing. Like the alpha or ‘kent variant’, the omicron has a specific mutation meaning it can be detected through PCR tests without the need for genomic sequencing. With this so-called S-gene dropout the proportion of positive tests in England has risen from 0.1 per cent in the past week to 0.3 per cent, which equates to one in 330. The increase in S-gene dropouts suggests there may be hundreds of oomicron cases that are currently flying under the radar, scientists said.

Another 75 cases of Omicron Kovid found in England

Another 75 cases of the super-mutant Omicron variant have been identified in England, health officials confirmed, after discovering that most of the sequenced infections of the new variant are in fully vaccinated people.

The UK’s Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) said yesterday’s new cases bring the total number of confirmed Omicron infections in England to 104, while the total for the whole of Britain is now 134.

New cases were identified in the East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East, South West and West Midlands.

Scotland’s cases rose from 16 to 29 today, while Wales announced yesterday afternoon that its first case had been detected in Cardiff.

No cases have been found in Northern Ireland.

The UKHSA said individuals who have tested positive for Omicron and their contacts have been asked to self-isolate, and work is being done to identify any links to travel.

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Six more US states confirmed yesterday’s infection, experts said, but the potential for a delta strain remains a major threat as winter begins and Americans gather for the holidays.

New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Utah each reported their first cases on Friday.

Missouri was awaiting CDC confirmation of a case involving a St. Louis resident who had recently traveled within the United States.

And the variant spread to Australia today, as a cluster in Sydney testing plans to reopen the economy swelled to 13 cases and an infection was suspected in the state of Queensland.

Federal officials are sticking with plans to reopen the economy on hopes that the new version proves milder than previous strains, but some state and regional governments have moved to tighten their domestic border controls.

Australia reported its first community transmission of Omicron on Friday at a Sydney school. Officials are probing the source.

When more test results come in, Omicron cases were expected over the weekend, said Kerry Chant, the chief health officer for New South Wales, which has Sydney the capital.

Meanwhile, India today reported its third type of case, taking the country’s total number of Covid cases close to 35 million.

Officials in the western state of Gujarat said the patient who tested positive for Omicron was a 72-year-old man of Indian origin, who had lived in Zimbabwe for decades, and returned on November 28.

India on Saturday reported 8,603 new COVID cases, taking the total to 34.6 million. The death toll rose from 415 to 470,530.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month asked officials to focus on countries at risk, after the WHO declared the new version a ‘matter of concern’.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday that South Korea reported a record 5,352 new Covid infections and 70 deaths per day, while the Omicron version had nine confirmed cases.

The government announced on Friday that people visiting restaurants, cinemas and other public places will have to show a vaccine pass.

It is reducing the limit for private gatherings in the greater Seoul area from 10 currently, and 12 for those outside the capital, to eight, starting next Monday.

The hospitalization rate due to severe cases of COVID-19 was increasing rapidly, the KDCA said, taking the number of critical and critical patients to 752 as of Friday.

South Korea has also confirmed three additional Omicron cases, bringing the total to nine after a fully vaccinated couple who had traveled from Nigeria last week tested positive.

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