JIS News

Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, says the entity has been in touch with Health Ministers of Member countries to share details about the new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant – Omicron – and will continue to provide updates and guidance when available.

Omicron has been designated a variant of interest by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking during PAHO’s weekly COVID-19 digital media briefing on Wednesday (December 1), Dr. Etienne said researchers globally are actively conducting studies to better understand the variant, “so we have the best available evidence to guide our actions”.

She indicated that the virus still needs to be isolated to conduct neutralisation tests, adding that this process will “take some time”.

“Until these tests and other laboratory assays are completed, we will not have enough evidence to determine the degree of transmissibility or severity of the Omicron variant, or to assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against it,” the Director further said.

Dr. Etienne advised that Brazil and Canada are the only regional countries where Omicron has, so far, been detected, adding that other territories could begin seeing it in circulation soon.

‘That is why it’s important that countries redouble their surveillance efforts, share sequences with the Genomic Surveillance Network of the Americas, and report any Omicron cases to the WHO,” she urged.

Additionally, Dr. Etienne said countries should sustain their public health measures to limit the virus’ transmission and adjust them according to local risks.

The Director also urged citizens “not to be frightened”, pointing out that the most important step they can take to protect themselves is getting vaccinated to reduce the risk of exposure.

She said persons should also adhere to the infection prevention and control measures that have proven effective in limiting or reducing transmission.

These, the Director reiterated, include wearing masks, physical distancing, frequently washing and  sanitising hands, and avoiding crowded spaces, especially indoors, and assured that “these measures are effective against all variants, including Omicron”.

Dr. Etienne assured that PAHO continues to closely track the other variants across the region, pointing out that “Delta remains the predominant variant in the Americas”.

Skip to content