The symptoms are reportedly not as severe as that of the Delta variant, but make no mistake, Omicron is a threat.
In light of the new COVID-19 variant reaching Australian shores, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that people should not delay getting their booster shot, once they are eligible.
“The evidence is that immunity – after your second vaccination – does drop off after a few months,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Logically, every one of us should be beating down the doors to get the booster shot.
“I fear that some people who have had the two shots think that’s it. The best thing to do is go and get your booster as soon as you are eligible.”
“I fear that some people who have had the two shots think that’s it,” – NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard
What is Omicron?
Omicron is a “variant of concern” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It was first discovered by scientists in South Africa and has spread to more than 50 countries, including Australia, the US, and England.
Of the 403 new cases of COVID-19 recorded to 8pm last night, there is now a total of 42 cases of COVID-19 with the Omicron variant in NSW.
More contagious than Delta?
It is not yet known whether Omicron is more transmissible than Delta.
According to a WHO statement on November 28, the number of people testing positive to COVID-19 “has risen in areas of South Africa affected by [Omicron], but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors”.
The Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has said that he suspects within the next few months, “Omicron will be the new virus in the world”.
In NSW, health authorities are continuing to investigate a possible COVID-19 cluster from a 140-person harbour cruise on the Friday night of December 3. So far, three attendees have the new Omicron variant of the virus. There is expected to be more.
Are the symptoms less severe than Delta?
This is difficult to say, given vaccination drastically curbs the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
According to NSW Health, however, no Omicron cases have yet been admitted to hospital in NSW. (There are currently 151 COVID-19 cases in hospital in NSW, with 25 people in intensive care.)
Professor Kelly has previously pointed out that while there was a rise in hospitalisations in South Africa, the cases with the Omicron variant “are not any more severe than in previous waves”.
The early evidence from positive Omicron cases “is that something is working to keep people from being severely ill,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Logic is that has to be the vaccines.”
Will restrictions return to NSW?
Not according to Premier Dominic Perrottet, who said the NSW Government was committed to easing restrictions from next week.
From December 15 (when the state is 95 per cent fully vaccinated), masks will only be required on public transport, planes, at airports and in hotels (for unvaccinated front-of-house staff).
And QR code check-ins will only be required at high-risk settings including hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, gyms and places of worship, and beauty venues.
“Vax the world”
World Vision Australia CEO Daniel Wordsworth has called world governments to support poorer countries getting their citizens vaccinated, to curb the emergence of future variants, such as Omicron.
“None of us is completely safe until all of us are vaccinated, which is why World Vision is urging the acceleration of a more equitable global roll-out of vaccines to be supported by all governments,” Mr Wordsworth said in a statement provided to Hope 103.2.
“To achieve the shared goal of the fastest possible universal coverage, wealthy countries must work together with low- and middle-income countries to guarantee that vaccine supplies are not only accessible for all but also prepared for vaccine roll-outs.”
Feature image: Getty