South AfricaJohannesburg: People infected with earlier variants of Covid do not appear to be protected against Omicron, although vaccination will still prevent serious illness, a top South African scientist said Thursday.”We believe that previous infection does not provide protection from Omicron,” said Anne von Gottberg, an expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Outlining early research into the newly-emerged variant, she said doctors were seeing “an increase for Omicron reinfections.”This trend was also seen in models which projected those cases against the overall population, she said in a news conference with the World Health Organization’s Africa region.”We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country,” she said.”We believe that vaccines will still however protect against severe disease,” she added.”Vaccines have always held out to protect against serious disease, hospitalisations and death.”The new variant, first reported to the WHO a week earlier, has popped up across continents.
WHO experts reiterated calls for a rethink on travel bans against southern Africa, given that Omicron had now been reported in nearly two dozen countries and its source remained unclear.”
South Africa and Botswana detected the variant. We don’t know where the origin of this could have been,” said specialist Ambrose Talisuna. “To punish people who are just detecting or reporting… is unfair.”‘Omicron’ Could Be Dominant In France Within Weeks, Says AdviserPARIS: Omicron could become the dominant COVID-19 variant in France by the end of January, the top scientific adviser said on Thursday, after both France and the United States reported their first cases and countries around the world tightened curbs.
The first known U.S. case was a fully vaccinated person in California who returned to the United States from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive seven days later. The French case, in the greater Paris region, was a passenger arriving from Nigeria. US President Joe Biden is working on a strategy to fight COVID-19 this winter and sources briefed on the matter told Reuters one step would be extending requirements for travellers to wear masks through mid-March. A formal announcement is expected on Thursday.
The White House also plans to announce stricter testing for international visitors.French government adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy told BFM television the “true enemy” for now was still the Delta variant, spreading in a fifth wave.”We should see a progressive rise of the Omicron variant, which will take over from Delta,” possibly by the end of January, he said.”Christmas is not at risk if the population and decision-makers are all very cautious,” he said, reiterating that social distancing and a third, booster shot of vaccines were key.
The French Omicron infection followed a case found in the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion last month.Airlines in the United States were told to hand over the names of passengers arriving from parts of southern Africa, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention letter seen by Reuters showed.Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first found on Nov. 8 in South Africa and has spread to at least two dozen countries, just as parts of Europe were suffering a surge in infections of the better-known Delta variant as winter sets in.Top U.S.
infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Wednesday said it could take two weeks or more to gain insight into how easily the variant spreads, the severity of the illness that it causes and whether it can evade currently available vaccines
.South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said early epidemiological data suggested Omicron was able to evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death.World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told a briefing that data should be available “within days” on Omicron’s contagiousness.BioNTech’s CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer was likely to offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.
And GlaxoSmithKline said that a lab analysis of the antibody-based COVID-19 therapy it is developing with U.S. partner Vir had shown the drug is effective against the Omicron variant.This contrasts with Regeneron’s study of its COVID-19 antibody drug, which it said could be less effective against Omicron, adding to fears about the efficacy of existing treatments. Moderna’s top boss raised similar concerns about the company’s vaccine.Indications suggesting Omicron may be markedly more contagious than previous variants have rattled financial markets, fearful that new restrictions could choke a tentative recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic.