Omicron deaths reach the same level as at the peak of the delta surge despite a lower rate of hospitalizations.
A new version of the omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading through dozens of countries, including the United States, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that health authorities investigate its characteristics to find out if it poses a new risk due to its contagiousness or lethality.
This new version, known as BA. 2, is a descendant of the omicron variant responsible for the increase in infections in the United States and throughout the world, known to virologists as BA.1.
“The lineage descended from BA. 2, which differs from BA. 1 in some of the mutations, including in the spike protein, is increasing in many countries,” the WHO wrote on its website.
“Research on the characteristics of BA. 2, including immune escape properties and its virulence, should be prioritized independently of (and compared to) BA. 1,” he added.
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Viruses are constantly mutating, and so far there is no evidence that this new version of omicron is more virulent, spreads faster, or better escapes immunity from previous COVID-19 infections or vaccines.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to think this is much worse than the current version of omicron,” virologist Robert Garry of Tulane University School of Medicine told The Washington Post.
The new version has been detected in countries such as India, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and at least three cases have been discovered at the Texas Methodist Hospital, which is studying the genetic makeup of virus samples from its patients.
Ómicron causes fewer hospitalizations
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed Tuesday that omicron infections have caused a lower percentage of hospitalizations than the Delta variant.
“Although ómicron recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations during the pandemic, indicators of disease severity, including length of stay, ICU admission, and death, were lower than during previous peaks,” says the study.
However, due to the increase in infections, the maximum level of daily hospital admissions has been higher than in previous waves. And deaths in the country have risen in recent days to the same level as at the peak of the delta wave.
“Although the severity of illness appears to be less with the omicron variant, the high volume of hospitalizations can overwhelm local health care systems and the average daily number of deaths remains considerable,” the study says.
The EU will lift travel restrictions
The European Union on Tuesday recommended lifting travel restrictions for people traveling within the bloc who have been fully vaccinated in the last nine months, have tested negative, or have recently recovered from COVID-19.
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The European Council proposed that member states remove testing and quarantine requirements for those holding “EU COVID-19 digital certificates” from February 1, 2022.
The change came a day after the WHO said the spread of the omicron variant could take the pandemic from overwhelming to manageable.
In the United States, the Government will withdraw from this Wednesday the mandatory nature of the vaccine for large companies after the ruling earlier this month by the Supreme Court to block the norm.
The Department of Labor’s Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that it is withdrawing the rule issued in November for companies with 100 or more employees.