WHO warns against concluding Omicron is milder variant

December 21, 2021 - 4:23 PM
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World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan attends a press conference organised by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

GENEVA — The World Health Organization‘s chief scientist said on Monday it was too early to conclude the Omicron variant was milder than other coronavirus strains, saying it could still make enough people sick to “overburden” healthcare systems.

“…It is probably unwise to sit back and think this is a mild variant, it’s not going to cause severe disease, because I think with the numbers going up all health systems are going to be under strain,” Soumya Swaminathan told Geneva-based journalists.

She added that this perception appeared to be based on initial data out of parts of South Africa which might give a misleading impression due to high levels of existing immunity among the population.

—Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Chris Reese