COVID-19: Omicron variant poses ‘very high’ global risk, says WHO

The Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally, posing a “very high” global risk where COVID-19 surges could have “severe consequences” in some areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday.

The UN agency, in technical advice to its 194 member states, urged them to accelerate vaccination of high-priority groups and to “ensure mitigation plans are in place” to maintain essential health services.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said. “The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high,” it emphasised.

Further research is needed to better understand Omicron's potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, it said, adding that more data was expected in the coming weeks.

“COVID-19 cases and infections are expected in vaccinated persons, albeit in a small and predictable proportion,” it added.

Poland to introduce quarantine for travellers from countries with Omicron

Poland plans to introduce a quarantine requirement on some travellers from countries where the Omicron Covid variant has been detected, the health minister announced on Monday.

Adam Niedzielski said exemption from the quarantine rules would be granted to those who are fully vaccinated or have had a test for the presence of the virus. He added that the government is working on a full list of countries to which the quarantine requirement would apply.

The minister explained that travellers form countries, where the Omicron variant had been detected, would have to undergo quarantine, except for those who have been tested or vaccinated, “though we do not fully know what the interaction with vaccinations is with the new mutation,” he cautioned.

Mr Niedzielski added that the border restrictions would come into force at the beginning of December. He added that the latest daily infection count was 13,100. “The growth dynamic week on week is only 6,500 or even less,” he said. “It can clearly be seen that we are dealing with a possible watershed moment.”