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  27 Nov 2021, 09:49

Omicron variant poses 'high to very high' risk to Europe: EU health agency

  STOCKHOLM, Nov 27, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - The new Covid variant, dubbed Omicron
and originally detected in South Africa, poses a "high to very high" risk to
Europe, the EU health agency warned on Friday.

  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) noted in a
threat assessment report that there was still "considerable uncertainty
related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections
and other properties of the Omicron variant."

  However, the overall risk that Omicron posed to the European Union and
European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) was "high to very
high."

  Given the possibility that current vaccines may not protect against the
variant, and the fact that it may be more transmissible, "we assess the
probability of further introduction and community spread in the EU/EEA as
high," the Stockholm-based agency said.

  "In a situation where the Delta variant is resurgent in the EU/EEA, the
impact of the introduction and possible further spread of Omicron could be
very high," it added.

  Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a person
coming from Malawi as well as in Botswana, Hong Kong and EU member Belgium.

  The agency urged countries to conduct genomic sequencing and contact
tracing of confirmed cases, and called for people to not travel to affected
areas.

  The World Health Organization on Friday declared the recently-discovered
strain to be a variant of concern.

  The classification puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of Covid-
19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals
Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

  Nations rushed to ban flights to slow the spread of Omicron on Friday,
while stock markets and oil prices plunged on fears surrounding the variant,
potentially dealing a heavy blow to the global economic recovery.

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