Changes in Omicron, social activities fuel global growth

The World Health Organization has said the spread of Omicron is due to a combination of factors, including the makeup of the COVID-19 variant and increased social mix.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 technical manager, said people therefore need to think about reducing their exposure to the virus and taking control of its transmission, after a week of record numbers of new cases.

The total number of recorded COVID-19 cases worldwide surpassed 300 million on Friday, with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant setting new infection records in dozens of countries over the past week.

In the past seven days, 34 countries have recorded their highest number of weekly cases since the start of the pandemic, including 18 countries in Europe and seven in Africa, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Van Kerkhove said that Omicron spreads very effectively between people for a number of reasons.

First, its mutations make it easier for the virus to adhere to human cells.

“Second is that we have what’s called immune breakout. And that means people can be re-infected either… if they’ve had an infection before or if they’ve been vaccinated, ”she said, in comments released by the WHO.

“The other reason is that we are seeing replication of Omicron in the upper airways – and that is Omicron… different from Delta and other variants, including the ancestral strain that replicated in the airways. lower, in the lungs. “

But in addition to these factors, the spread of the virus was also due to the background where people mixed more, spent more time indoors during the northern hemisphere winter, and did not adhere to measures such as distancing. physical.

Just under 9.5 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported to the WHO last week – a record, up 71% from the previous week.

“The general public, what you need to worry about is just reducing your exposure to the virus,” Van Kerkhove said.

“We want people to understand and feel empowered to have some control over the infection.”

She also added that avoiding developing persistent symptoms of Long Covid was “reason enough” to try to avoid getting infected with the disease in the first place.

Joel C. Hicks