Early indications of the severity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are “a bit encouraging” but more information is still awaited, said leading US pandemic adviser Dr Anthony Fauci.
Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest hospitalisation rates have not increased alarmingly. “Though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci said. “Thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging. But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe, or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to Delta.”
Medical experts have in recent days underlined that the South African population’s young and more severe cases could emerge in the coming weeks.
Lab tests are being conducted to determine whether Omicron – a heavily mutated strain of the virus – is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to immunity from vaccination, and if infection is more severe, with results expected within weeks.