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Reinfection threat rises 3 times with Covid-19 Omicron variant: Study

Variant sharply increased global economic uncertainty, says IMF

Coronavirus Tests | Coronavirus Vaccine

Bloomberg & Reuters  |  Washington/Geneva 

Omicron, New Variant, South Korea
At an aquarium in Seoul. South Korea, which is preparing for the Christmas holiday, has tightened restrictions on social gatherings. From next week, private social gatherings of seven or more are banned in Seoul (Photo: AP/PTI)

The risk of reinfection from the Omicron variant is three times higher than for any previous strain, according to a South African study of infections since the start of the pandemic.

The finding provides evidence of Omicron’s “ability to evade immunity from prior infection,” according to the authors, Juliet Pulliam of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and Harry Moultrie of the National Center for Communicable Diseases.

The study was based on data collected through South Africa’s health system on about 2.8 million confirmed infections between March 2020 and November 27, the authors wrote in an emailed statement. Of those, 35,670 were suspected reinfections. “Our most urgent priority now is to quantify the extent of omicron’s immune escape for both natural and vaccine-derived immunity, as well as its transmissibility relative to other variants and impact on disease severity,” they wrote.

That strain has rapidly taken hold in Africa’s most-industrialised nation. New cases exceeded 11,000 on Thursday, compared with 585 two weeks ago, according to the government data. In Gauteng, the nation’s richest province and its Covid-19 epicenter, each infected person on average is able to pass on the virus to another 2.33, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

As Omicron cases continued to pop across the world, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Tobias Adrian, head of the fund’s monetary and capital markets division, in a blog warned that the resurgence of the pandemic and the Omicron variant had sharply increased uncertainty around global economic prospects. But they said the strength of the recovery and the magnitude of underlying inflationary pressures varied widely across countries, and policy responses could be calibrated to the unique circumstances of individual economies.

They warned of intensifying inflationary pressures, especially in the US, and suggested that “it would be appropriate for the Federal Reserve to accelerate the taper of asset purchases”.

Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO chief scientist, on the other hand urged people not to panic over Omicron and said it was too early to say if Covid-19 vaccines would have to be modified to fight the mutant.

On Alert

Test to find Omicron

Roche's newly acquired subsidiary TIB Molbiol has developed three new test kits to help researchers detect mutations in the new Omicron variant, Roche said. Governments around the world are scouring databases for recent cases of Covid-19 infections, screening travellers, and decoding the genomes of the new variant as they try to measure how far it has spread.

Diplomat Mystery

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said some of the four diplomats who first tested positive for Omicron variant in the country had come from Europe. While it is still not established where Omicron first emerged, on November 25 South Africa, followed by Botswana a day later, announced they had detected a new variant whose mutations were different from Delta

•Sri Lanka detects its first case of Omicron

•US FDA is aiming for speedy review of Omicron jabs and drugs

•BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said the firm should be able to adapt its Covid jab relatively quickly

•South Africa is readying a mandatory vaccine policy

•Google pushes back mandatory return to office beyond January 10

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First Published: Fri, December 03 2021. 23:24 IST