The World Health Organization has warned that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was spreading at a rate not seen with previous variants and was likely present in most countries.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the new strain was detected in at least 77 nations and was likely already in most countries.
“Seventy-seven countries have now reported cases of Omicron, and the reality is that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet,” Ghebreyesus told reporters during a media briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
“Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.
The discovery of Omicron was first announced in November by scientists in South Africa, which was the first to experience a surge in coronavirus driven by the new variant. The discovery of Omicron triggered worries that it could cause another surge in global infections, leading many countries to impose travel restrictions on several southern African nations.
“Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” said WHO chief while lamenting that some people were dismissing Omicron as a mild variant.