WHO Warns Omicron Variant Risk Is ‘Very High’

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. The new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus popped up in more European countries on Saturday, just days after being identified in South Africa, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said mask-wearing in shops and on public transport will be required, starting Tuesday. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the global risk from the omicron variant of the coronavirus is “very high” based on early evidence, warning of the possibility of future surges with “severe consequences.”

The U.N. health agency, in a technical brief to member states highlighted to reporters on Monday, said “considerable uncertainties” remain about the new variant that was first detected in southern Africa, but cautioned that the likelihood of possible further spread around the world was high.

Based on the possibility that mutations in omicron could escape an immune response and boost its ability to be transmitted between people, “the likelihood of potential further spread of omicron at the global level is high,” WHO said.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” it added. “The overall global risk related to the new VOC Omicron is assessed as very high.”

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