The World Health Organization said on Friday that the Covid omicron variant had been detected in 38 countries, up from 23 two days earlier, with early data suggesting the strain is more contagious than Delta.
“We’re seeing an increasing rate of growth, and we’re seeing increasing numbers of omicron being discovered,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19, said during a question and answer session broadcast on the group’s social media channels on Friday. “But we have reports of Omicron in 38 countries in all six WHO regions.”
“There is a suggestion that there is an increase in transmissibility, what we need to understand is whether it is somewhat transmissible compared to deltas,” Van Kerkhove said, noting that the delta variant is still prevalent worldwide.
“It is clear that the virus appears to be transmitting efficiently,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
“We’ve seen that before with Delta. So again, there are certain things we shouldn’t be surprised about,” Ryan said.
Omicron contains about 30 mutations of the spike protein, which is the mechanism used to bind human cells. According to the World Health Organization, some of these mutations are associated with higher transmission and ability to escape immune protection.