JERUSALEM: The Omicron variant, with more than 30 mutations on its spike protein, may not be as dangerous as the Delta and Alpha and other variants of coronavirus, which has so far claimed more than five millions lives across the world. However, the variant appears to be more contagious, said a scientist from Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Israel.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron has spread to nearly 38 countries, but no deaths have yet been reported.
"We have to say this with a lot of caution, but if we look at the currently available information, there is reason to believe that the variant is spreading fast, but maybe it is not so dangerous," Prof. Dror Mevorach, a senior physician was quoted as saying to Jerusalem Post.
South Africa's Tshwane District Omicron Variant Patient Profile showed that 80 per cent of hospital admissions in the previous two weeks were people below age 50, the vast majority of whom did not require oxygen support.
This can be explained in several ways, including the lower age of the patients, or that the course of the Omicron variant is milder, Mevorach said.
Some experts have also suggested that if Omicron is more infectious but milder, it could make corona more similar to the flu.
Mevorach agreed, saying that "it would really be good news for the world. I think that we have had indications of vaccinated people getting infected, but it appears that their disease is mild".
If this is so, he said different scenarios might emerge.
"We might need to accept that some people are going to get sick, and treat them with the antiviral treatments that are about to become available, or the vaccines might be slightly tweaked to be more effective," he said. "However, I'm not really sure that we will need to do it. The first option might be good enough."
Mevorach also expressed optimism that the protection granted by the booster will last for a long time, the report said.
"What I have seen in immunological studies is that the booster really increases the antibodies, and I think it will give a longer-lasting immunity," he said.
Meanwhile, the number of Omicron Covid-19 variant cases in Israel have rose from seven to 11, the Israeli Health Ministry has said in a statement.
While the WHO said on December 3 that it had still not seen any reports of deaths related to Omicron, the new variant's spread has led to warnings that it could cause more than half of Europe's Covid-19 cases in the next few months.
A preliminary study by researchers in South Africa, where the variant was first reported on November 24, suggests it is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.
South African doctors said there had been a spike in children under five admitted to hospital since Omicron emerged, but stressed it was too early to know if young children were particularly susceptible. (IANS)