According to a new discovery by the World Health Organisation, the Omicron Covid-19 variant is more infectious than the Delta strain and decreases vaccine efficiency.
The WHO said early data revealed that the Omicron variant causes less severe symptoms.
Recall that the Delta variant was first identified in India earlier this year and reported to be responsible for most of the world’s coronavirus infections.
WHO revealed that the Omicron variant which was discovered in South Africa on Thursday November 24 has a large number of mutations and prompted countries around the world to impose travel bans on Southern African countries and reintroduce domestic restrictions to slow its spread.
The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries as at December 9.
The faster transmission was noted in South Africa, where Delta is less prevalent, and in Britain, where Delta is the dominant strain.
But it stressed that a lack of data meant it could not say if Omicron’s rate of transmission was because it was less prone to immune responses, higher transmissibility, or a combination of both.
According to the WHO during a technical brief, early evidence suggests Omicron causes “a reduction in vaccine efficacy against infection and transmission”.
“Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where community transmission occurs,” it added.
Omicron infections have so far caused “mild” illness or asymptomatic cases, but the WHO said the data was insufficient to establish the variant’s clinical severity.
However, Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech last week said three doses of their jabs were still effective against Omicron.
Countries with sufficient vaccine supplies such as Britain and France have encouraged their populations to receive a third “booster” jab to fight Omicron.