Technical Brief: Enhancing Readiness for Omicron ~ MECHTECH GURU

Technical Brief: Enhancing Readiness for Omicron

Technical Brief: Enhancing Readiness for Omicron


• On 26 November 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, as Omicron on the basis of advice from WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution.

• This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning – Omicron may be associated with higher transmissibility and immune escape potential. However, there are still considerable uncertainties.

Risk Assessment

• Given its immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage compared to Delta, likelihood of potential introduction and subsequent transmission of Omicron in the South-East Asia region is high. In case another major surge of COVID-19 take place in the Region driven by the Omicron, consequences will be severe. Overall risk related to the novel variant Omicron for WHO South-East Asia Region is assessed high.

Priority actions for the countries in South-East Asia Regin

• Enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants. Where capacity exists, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the Omicron.

• As S gene target failure (SGTF) is indicated for Omicron, the SGTF can used as the marker for this variant, which may lead to efficient detection of the Omicron.

• Report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.

• Continue to accelerate the vaccination coverage, especially among priority populations initially targeted for COVID-19 vaccination who remain unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated.

• Use a risk-based approach to timely adjust international travel measures. Timely adjustment of international travel measures in precautionary manner guided by risk assessment is advisable.

• The use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and improving ventilation of indoor spaces remain key to reducing transmission of SARS CoV-2 even with the Omicron. Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases with an epidemiological link to the affected areas is strongly advised.

• Ensure early warning system is in place to timely adjust the public health and social measures.

• In the anticipation of COVID-19 case-load and associated pressure on the health system, ensure mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and necessary health care resources are in place to respond to potential surges.

• The authority should regularly communicate evidence-based information on the Omicron and potential implication for the public in timely and transparent manner, including what is known, what is unknown and what is being done by responsible authorities.

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