The new variant of the coronavirus, Ômicron, has alerted markets, governments and health authorities and has triggered restrictions on travel from some African countries, as the new strain was identified for the first time in South Africa.
Despite the panic this can generate, there is still a lot to know about Ômicron. Many people are concerned, for example, about what prevention measures should we take?
Although scientists say there is cause for concern about the variant, they emphasize that there are still many things we don’t know, including whether the new mutation is actually more contagious, whether it causes the more severe form of the disease, or what its effects are on effectiveness. of vaccines.
“While this is worrying, as the WHO has indicated, I think we have to step back and wait for science,” epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed told CNN.
Ômicron: what preventive measures can we take? Do travel restrictions work as a prevention?
While discovering the variant’s potential impact, governments are trying to buy time with a series of new travel restrictions.
But some officials criticize these restrictions as unfair and ineffective.
The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa said on Sunday it supports African nations and called for borders to remain open as a growing number of countries around the world impose bans on flights from southern countries. Africa.
According to the regional office, countries should adopt a risk-based scientific approach and implement measures that could limit the possible spread of the variant.
Co-Chair of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, Salim Abdool Karim, told John Berman on Monday’s CNN New Day that the travel restrictions were “outrageous.”
“First of all, it’s outrageous that South Africa and Southern African countries are being punished for having good vigilance and ensuring that we wanted to be completely transparent and share this data with the rest of the world as soon as we knew and it was confirmed.” , said Karim, when asked about the travel restrictions in place and how effective they were.
“If you think about what we experienced with the Delta variant, in a matter of three weeks it was in over 53 countries, it will become superfluous and irrelevant to try to restrict travel from some countries because it will spread to many other countries,” he said. .
What can we do against Ômicron? Prevention lessons after nearly two years of pandemic
Although the different mutations of Ômicron have aroused the interest of health authorities around the world, it is still the same virus that we have lived with for almost two years.
For this reason, travel agencies suggest five measures that can help prevent cases of the new mutation and other variants in travelers:
- Request vaccination certificates to travel
- Submit negative PCR test before shipment
- Anyone with symptoms should not travel
- Mandatory use of masks in flight and at airports
- Test travelers at the point of arrival
Other measures, such as quarantine, could also prevent cases of the new variant, they add.
Physical barriers to prevention
The previous measures still work against this variant. In this way:
- frequent hand washing
- physical distance
- Good ventilation of the environments
- Vaccination and booster doses
Vaccination is more important than ever against Ômicron
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in the United States, said he does not believe the Ômicron variant creates a situation where “vaccines become useless.”
“I think this is extremely unlikely,” he said. “The question is, is there a small impact on vaccine effectiveness or a big impact? I think we will probably have some preliminary data in the next few days.”
The laboratories that produce the available vaccines have announced that they will work to test the effectiveness of their products against this new variant.
US health authorities recommend that people not be complacent and use all the tools at their disposal against the Ômicron variant of Covid-19.
They say vaccines and booster shots are still the best protection available.
To date, about 59.1% of the US population is fully vaccinated and about 19.1% of fully vaccinated people have received a booster dose, according to the CDC.
The Ômicron variant reinforces the need for vaccination, National Institute of Health director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN on Sunday.
“We have to use all kinds of tools available in our toolbox to prevent [a Ômicron] get into a situation that makes it worse,” he said.
“It also means that we must pay attention to mitigation strategies that people are really tired of, like wearing masks indoors with other people who may not be vaccinated and keeping physical distance,” he added. “I know, United States, you guys are really tired of hearing these things. But the virus is not tired of us. And it’s changing.”
As the WHO explains, these measures could even prevent the emergence of new variants and break the chain of transmission.
Even among the vaccinated population, these actions are more important than ever.
(Translated text. Click here to read the original in Spanish)
Reference: CNN Brasil