The Omicron COVID-19 variant is highly transmissible and could escape vaccine immunity, but some scientists feel the latest mutation could end the pandemic.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis said it is only a matter of time before Omicron, first detected in South Africa, arrives on the island.
Although Omicron is deemed a ‘super variant’ since it has a large number of mutations, Voniatis said it does not mean it will be worse than the Alpha variant (Kent variant).
“What seems to be rather certain is that it is transmitted much more easily, and this is worrying because it will quickly spread across the world,” Voniatis said.
However, he added that existing data showed the Omicron variant is milder; at least, the data from South Africa indicates.
“If it really causes mild illness, as some doctors in South Africa have described, it is likely to help build herd immunity to the coronavirus,” Voniatis said.
However, he warned against jumping to conclusions, as not much is known, including whether the vaccines against Covid-19 currently protect people from Omicron.
“This is not yet clear because laboratory and epidemiological tests are needed.”
He argued that any increase in cases would lead to an increase in hospitalisations and possibly more deaths.
“Hospitals need to be prepared for additional admissions if necessary.
“We know that the Omicron has caused reinfections of both vaccinated and those who had the virus in South Africa, but that does not mean the illness could be serious.”
Voniatis recommended that boosting vaccination rates among the population continues with existing vaccines and called on people to get the booster jab for a higher degree of immunity.
He also stressed the importance of abiding by personal protection measures and protocols.
“Masks, social distancing, washing hands, following protocols, Safe Pass, all these measures will prepare us to face the problem.”