On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said the highly mutated omicron variant of Covid-19 could change the course of the pandemic and would have a significant impact on the pandemic.

Iran PressEurope: "Certain features of omicron, including its global spread and large number of mutations, suggest it could have a major impact on the course of the pandemic," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said at a media briefing in Geneva.

Scientists worldwide are scrambling to determine just how contagious and lethal the mutated virus has become.

According to the WHO, genetic changes to the virus affect its virulence and indicate it could be considerably more infectious than previous strains.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, said preliminary evidence from South Africa might suggest that Omicron is milder than the delta strain. Still, it is "too early to conclude" that fact.  She added that patients in the country with a more mild course of the disease may not have gone through the full course of the infection yet. 

"It's too early to tell," Van Kerkhove said during the briefing. "I just only wanted to caution against any conclusions about the severity of omicron yet." 

The WHO's remarks come as the omicron variant, first identified in southern Africa, has been found in 57 countries worldwide.

The WHO added that new cases "plateaued" worldwide over the last week. More than 4 million new confirmed cases were reported across the world, similar to the figures from the previous week. 

Deaths worldwide, however, increased by 10% over the last week, the WHO report noted. Over 52,500 new deaths were reported. 


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