Covid-19: Omicron detected in 89 countries, cases doubling fast, WHO says

Omicron’s substantial growth advantage means it is likely to soon overtake Delta as the dominant variant


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Published: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 7:36 PM

Last updated: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 8:10 PM

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 89 countries and is spreading rapidly even in places with high levels of population immunity, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Saturday.

The number of Covid-19 cases involving Omicron is doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in countries where there is community transmission of the variant and not just people who were infected abroad, WHO said.

Omicron’s “substantial growth advantage” over the Delta variant means it is likely to soon overtake Delta as the dominant variant in those countries, the UN health agency said.


It remains unclear if the rapid growth of Omicron cases is because the variant evades existing immunity, is inherently more transmissible than previous variants, or a combination of both, WHO said.

Other major questions about Omicron remain unanswered, including how effective each of the existing Covid-19 vaccines are against it. Conclusive data also does not exist yet on how ill Omicron makes Covid-19 patients, the health agency said.

WHO first labelled Omicron a variant of concern on November 26.

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