WHO warns Asia-Pacific countries to prepare for Omicron

It can be assumed that the Omicron variant learns from handling the Delta variant.

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, from Kamran Dikarma, Fauziah Mursid, Dian Fath Risalah

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Asia-Pacific countries need to prepare for a possible surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus. In addition to accelerating and expanding vaccination coverage, health care capacities must also be increased.

“Border controls can take time, but every country and community has to prepare for an increase in new cases,” said WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Takeshi Kasai at a virtual press conference on Friday. He stressed that people should not rely on border measures alone.

“The most important thing is to prepare this variant with a high transmission potential. The information so far shows that we need to change our approach, ”he said.

Regarding Omicron, Takeshi said countries should use the lessons and experiences in dealing with the Delta variant. In addition to the implementation of transmission prevention protocols, such as wearing masks and distance rules, vaccination must be increased, especially for people at risk.

Several Asian countries reported cases of Omicron this week including Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea (South Korea), India, including Australia. They responded to the discovery by tightening travel rules.

Omicron, which was first discovered in southern Africa, is already classified by the WHO as a “questionable variant”. This makes Omicron more dangerous than the first version of Covid-19. Experts are currently collecting data to determine how contagious and how severe the symptoms of the variant can be.

South Africa (South Africa) Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced that his country has entered the fourth wave of Covid-19 because of the appearance of Omicron. The variant was found in seven of the country’s nine provinces.

According to Phaahla, the health facilities in South Africa are not at risk during this phase. He is also optimistic that his country can control the spread of Omicron without the need to put in place a strict lockdown.

Even so, he encourages residents to be vaccinated completely or in two doses. Phaala believes that this is the best protection against Omicron. “We can manage this fourth wave, we can manage Omicron. The basic tools that we all know. We can still have a pretty successful holiday season,” Phaahla said.

Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa regretted the decision by dozen countries to impose travel bans on South African countries following the discovery of the Omicron variant. Besides being unfair and unscientific, he saw the move as a form of “health apartheid”. “As South Africa we stand firmly against all forms of health apartheid in the fight against the pandemic,” said Ramaphosa during a visit to Ivory Coast on Thursday (December 2nd).

He recalled again that scientists in his country were the first to discover or identify Omicron. Therefore, the implementation of a travel ban for South Africa is a slap in the face of Africa’s excellence and expertise. “This (travel) ban will do immeasurable damage, especially to the travel and tourism industries that sustain businesses and livelihoods in South Africa and southern Africa,” said Ramaphosa.

The WHO has asked the countries of the world to review the implementation of travel bans from countries in southern Africa. The WHO demands that decisions on how to deal with the pandemic are based on scientific and international health regulations. “As more countries impose flight bans on South African countries because of concerns about the new (Covid-19) variant of Omicron, WHO urges countries to follow international health sciences and regulations to avoid travel restrictions,” said the WHO in a statement Nov. 28, cited by Reuters.