Most Omicron cases are ‘mild’ or show no symptoms at all and existing jabs should provide high protection against hospitalisation and death, World Health Organization claims

Most Omicron cases are ‘mild’ and there is no evidence the new variant has any impact on vaccine effectiveness on serious illness, a World Health Organization official has claimed.

The health chief, who was not named, said early evidence suggests most people who become infected with the strain only suffer ‘mild’ symptoms.

And there is no signal the current crop of Covid vaccines are less effective against Omicron, despite the variant carrying more than 40 mutations, they said.

But they warned some mutations on the variant — which is scientifically known as B.1.1.529 — suggest it spreads more easily.

South African doctors have been reporting for the last week that most cases are mild.

And a top official in Botswana — where the strain may have emerged — said 85 per cent of cases didn’t show any symptoms at all.

Hospitalisations have surged in South Africa since the virus emerged, but only a quarter of its population is vaccinated.

For comparison, 70 per cent of people in the UK and the figure is as high as 80 per cent in some European nations.

Experts warn it will be at least two weeks until they have a better understanding of what impact the variant could have.

And SAGE, No10’s scientific advisors, warned Britain should brace for a ‘potentially very significant wave with associated hospitalisations’ this winter if the worst estimates about Omicron turn out to be true.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms, including tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But none reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties 

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won’t be ready until mid-2022

People who get a booster Pfizer Covid vaccine or who had their second jab within six months should still be highly protected against Omicron, Israeli health chiefs claim.

Without citing any data, Health minister Nitzan Horowitz yesterday said there was ‘room for optimism’ and that existing vaccines will shield against severe illness from the super-strain, based on ‘initial indications’.

Hours later, a report by an Israeli news channel claimed the Pfizer jab was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron, only slightly less than Delta. 

The Channel 12 news broadcast also claimed the super variant is just 30 per cent more infectious than Delta — much lower than initially feared.

or comparison, Delta is 70 per cent more infectious than the Alpha strain, which it outpaced earlier this year.  

It comes after Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms than those infected with Delta.

Symptoms included tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But no patients reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties.

And Israeli health minister Nitzan Horowitz yesterday said there was ‘room for optimism’ about the variant and existing vaccines will shield against severe illness from the super-strain, based on ‘initial indications’.

Hours later, a report by an Israeli news channel claimed the Pfizer jab was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron, only slightly less than Delta. 

The Channel 12 news broadcast also claimed the super variant is just 30 per cent more infectious than Delta — much lower than initially feared. 

A spokesperson for the country’s Health Ministry last night said it was not yet in possession of this data. 

For comparison, Delta is 70 per cent more infectious than the Alpha strain, which it outpaced earlier this year. 

If the reports are confirmed it will be a massive relief to the UK which last night launched a mammoth booster programme for all adults, using Pfizer and Moderna’s jabs, with the hope of curbing the mutant variant.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all 53million adults in the UK will be offered a third dose by the end of January.

Some 22 Omicron cases have been detected in the UK. The figure is expected to grow and there is thought to be transmission of the strain within the community already.  

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