WHO pleads for 'rational' Omicron response - RTHK
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WHO pleads for 'rational' Omicron response

2021-12-01 HKT 00:18
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  • WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the global response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus must be calm, coordinated and coherent. File photo: AFP
    WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the global response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus must be calm, coordinated and coherent. File photo: AFP
The WHO on Tuesday urged countries to remain calm and take "rational" measures against the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

The emergence of Omicron, first reported to the World Health Organization in South Africa less than a week ago, has already spread rapidly across the globe with borders shutting and dozens of countries rolling out travel restrictions in defiance of WHO advice.

While so much is still unknown – no deaths have been reported from Omicron and it could take weeks to know how vaccine-resistant it could prove – the new strain underscores how besieged the world remains by Covid-19, nearly two years after the first cases.

"We call on all member states to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing to countries. "The global response must be calm, coordinated and coherent."

The WHO chief said it was understandable that countries wanted to protect their citizens "against a variant that we don't yet fully understand," yet the UN health agency fears that blocking travel could be unfair and dissuade surveillance.

"I am equally concerned that several member states are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities," said Tedros.

Governments, particularly in western Europe, have already struggled with rapid rises in case numbers and have reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews or lockdowns – leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.

Meanwhile, markets in Asia, Frankfurt, London and Paris fell, while US markets and oil prices also tumbled after the boss of US vaccine manufacturer Moderna warned vaccines might be less effective at fighting the new variant. (AFP)