December 6, 2022

An official of the World Health Organization urged countries to prepare for a possible surge of cases due to the Omicron variant by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and observing health protocols.

WHO Western Pacific Region Director, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, said “things are trending in the right direction in the region” as Covid-19 cases and deaths have decreased.

However, Kasai said countries – including those that have successfully suppressed the virus – cannot be complacent.

“Globally, cases have been increasing for seven consecutive weeks,” he added.

Kasai warned countries against possible surges of infections in the future as long as the transmission continues, causing the virus to mutate.

WHO Regional Emergency Director, Dr. Babatunde Olowokure said the number of countries reporting detection of Omicron is increasing daily.

To date, there are three states and an island in the region with Omicron cases – Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.

Citing that Omicron is more transmissible than other variants, Olowokure said the WHO is currently working with research institutions to better understand the variant as more information is needed.

“We know that Omicron will eventually come to most of the countries in the region. We need to start preparing now,” he added.

Kasai said making adjustments in the management of the Omicron variant could help countries “better cope with the future surges and reduce health and economic impact”.

He said the government cannot simply rely on border controls.

Meantime, Olowokure said travel bans can delay entry of the Omicron variant to countries “but they will not prevent its entry.”

The two best tools in suppressing the transmission of any variant of the coronavirus are the strict adherence to public health and social measures and inoculation, Kasai noted.

“Where there is high vaccine coverage, we can reduce severe illness and deaths,” he said. – PNA