"The Omicron variant transmits quicker and is able to spread among fully vaccinated people," Defriman Djafri remarked when contacted by Antara here on Monday.
Djafri, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Epidemiologist Association, West Sumatra, pointed out that Omicron is a heavily mutated variant, which can cause it to breach the protection of vaccines.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has declared the Omicron variant as a "variant of concern" (VoC) while it is still deepening research on how the variant transmits and why it infects people more easily, he noted.
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The Variant of Concern status is given to a coronavirus variant that increases the risk of transmission and mortality, he explained. Even more, a coronavirus variant that falls into this category has a capacity to badly impact vaccine efficacy, he said.
According to Djafri, although the cause is still unclear, positive cases of the new variant are continuing to rise in South Africa. However, he added, the severity of the Omicron variant has not been determined yet.
Based on initial data, some degree of severity has been reported with increasing hospitalizations reported in South Africa, he said. Compared to other variants such as Delta, the infection is more severe, he noted.
However, Djafri said the reported symptoms of Omicron are no different from other variants. Nevertheless, early infection occurs in college students or young people who tend to have milder symptoms than others, he informed.
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Based on data from GISAID, South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Australia, Israel, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom have reported cases of Omicron variant, he said. The Omicron variant was first reported by South Africa to the WHO in November 2021, he added.
Djafri then stressed that vigilance and monitoring in Indonesia must be strengthened to quickly detect any cases of the new variant.
Whole-genome sequencing should be done immediately to detect the virus variant, he said. Only through whole-genome sequencing can the new variant be detected in Indonesia, he added.
He then advised the public to continue to follow strict health protocols, saying the authorities must pursue COVID-19 vaccinations.
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