WHO tells Asia-Pacific to brace for Omicron

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, December 4, 2021
Adjust font size:

The World Health Organization warned Asia-Pacific countries on Friday to boost healthcare capacity and fully vaccinate their populations to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads globally despite travel curbs.

Despite shutting its borders to travel from high-risk southern African countries, Australia became the latest country to report community transmission of the new variant, a day after it was found locally in five US states.

Omicron started gaining a foothold in Asia this past week, with cases reported in India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

Many governments have tightened travel rules to keep the new variant out, but the WHO's warning stressed that border controls could only buy time for the Asia-Pacific, a region of about 650 million people.

"People should not only rely on border measures," said Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, during an online media news conference.

"What is most important is to prepare for these variants with potential high transmissibility. So far, the information available suggests we don't have to change our approach."

Vaccination rates vary from country to country in the Asia-Pacific, but there are worrying gaps. Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has fully inoculated only about 35 percent of its population of 270 million people, reported Reuters.

Australia's chief medical officer said Omicron was likely to become the dominant variant globally within months, but at this stage there was no evidence to suggest it was any more dangerous than Delta.

"I suspect within the months, Omicron will be the new virus in the world," said Paul Kelly, the top medical adviser to the Australian government, to reporters.

In the United States, President Joe Biden unveiled a suite of measures to guard against the spreading virus. From Monday, international air travelers arriving in the US will have to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.

"We're going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion," said Biden on Thursday as he told the public to prepare for a rise in infections during winter.

Global travel curbs have accelerated with Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Norway and Russia, among others, announcing fresh measures on Thursday. Malaysia said on Friday that it would further tighten restrictions.

Inflation fears

Aside from wreaking havoc in the travel industry, the clampdown has pounded financial markets and undermined major economies just as they were beginning to recover from the lockdowns triggered by Delta.

Shares in India, Japan and South Korea fell on Friday after overnight losses on the Wall Street, but traders will need to wait at least another week or so for answers from global health authorities on Omicron's virulence or vaccine resistance.

Oil prices climbed although they were still on course for a sixth week of declines amid concerns that demand could fall due to measures to contain Omicron.

The variant threatened to fuel soaring inflation in the US by further pressuring supply chains and worsening worker shortages, said Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester to The Financial Times.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter