If the Omicron Covid-19 variant causes only mild symptoms it could bring herd immunity and the end of the pandemic, an expert said on Monday.
According to epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis, it is only a matter of time before Omicron, the latest mutation of Covid-19 first detected in South Africa, arrives in Cyprus.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Voniatis said though Omicron is deemed a ‘super variant’ since it was found to have many mutations, this did not necessarily mean that it will be worse than the Alpha variant (first detected in the UK in September 2020).
“What seems to be rather certain, is that it is transmitted much more easily, and this is worrying because it will spread to all countries,” Voniatis said. Beyond that, he added, it is believed to be milder, at least this is what the data known so far from South Africa show.
“If it really is a mild disease, it is likely to help us get coronavirus immunity,” Voniatis said. “There is a possibility that this mutation could bring an end to the pandemic, if it is as mild as some doctors in South Africa describe it.”
He warned, however, that not much is known yet including whether the vaccines against Covid-19 currently can protect people from Omicron. “This is not yet clear because laboratory and epidemiological tests are needed.”
Voniatis said that this assessment must always come with reservations because usually with coronavirus, “when we have too many cases, it is possible to have victims, to have some people who will get seriously ill and have deaths.”
“We know that there are reinfections in both vaccinated and those who had the virus in South Africa, but that does not mean that if we have illness, it will be serious,” he said.
Nevertheless, he added, hospitals need to be prepared for additional admissions if necessary.
He recommended that the vaccination of the population continues with the existing vaccines and called on people to get the booster jab for a high degree of immunity. Although there are many mutations, he added, there is still immunity from vaccines and from those who caught the virus.
Voniatis also stressed the importance of personal protection measures.
“Therefore, mask protection, social distancing, washing hands, following protocols, SafePass, all these will prepare us to face the problem,” he said.
Head of the advisory committee of experts on coronavirus Constantinos Tsioutis, however, said later in the day that it is too early to say whether the new variant is very contagious but with mild symptoms.
“These are local observations in some countries and regions where the Delta variant did not prevail,” he said.
He recalled that in Cyprus the highly contagious Delta variant prevails.