Is the Omicron something to be worried about?

Little is known so far about this new variant as scientists and public health officials race to learn more, including whether the existing safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines would work in preventing illness caused by Omicron.

As the pandemic nears two years, a new set of travel bans are taking effect as governments around the world worry about the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

What is known, though, is that the vaccines have worked well against other variants, including the highly transmissible Delta variant. Even though some cases break through in vaccinated people, the vast majority of serious illness and death is among the unvaccinated.

So even though little is known about Omicron, getting vaccinated and a booster shot is a good way to be prepared.

“What’s most important is to emphasize that this virus is still around and still circulating, and that vaccination remains your most important tool against it,” Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention, told ABC-7 Chicago on Monday morning.

Is the Omicron something to be worried about?

Vaccine makers have said they’re planning to work on updated vaccines that will offer increased protection against Omicron. That happens regularly with annual flu vaccines, which are changed regularly to protect against different strains.

“The most important thing is not to panic. This (variants) is an expected event during the course of the pandemic,” Dr. Citronberg said.

First case confirmed in Europe with Belgium infection

Belgium has confirmed a case of the new, more transmissible Covid-19 variant, a virologist says.

It’s the first case in Europe of the variant feared to be more resistant to vaccines.

Marc Van Ranst, whose laboratory works closely with Belgium’s public health body Sciensano, said on Twitter that the variant was found in a traveller returning to Belgium from Egypt on 11 November.

The person developed the first symptoms on Monday, the virologist said.

Scientists are analysing two samples to establish whether they are the new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, he explained.

Mr Van Ranst told Reuters that the samples were suspicious because they were not the Delta variant, which accounts for almost all infections in Belgium.

He added the results of the analysis should be known this afternoon.

Belgium and the Netherlands were already taking new measures in an attempt to keep a Covid-19 surge from spiralling out of control, hoping to safeguard Christmas.

The country’s prime minister Alexander De Croo had to reinforce measures for the second time in a week, closing night clubs, while bars and restaurants have to close at 11pm for the next three weeks.

A rise in cases and hospital admissions exceeded even the worst medical predictions, forcing Belgium into quick action.

“We have been hoodwinked by the Delta variant,” he said.

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