FAQs Omicron

A health worker collects swab sample of a man for  COVID testing in north Kashmir's Baramulla on January 15, 2022.
A health worker collects swab sample of a man for COVID testing in north Kashmir's Baramulla on January 15, 2022.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Omicron is making new everywhere. The highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is driving an unprecedented surge of infections globally.

We’ve gathered the latest expert information about this variant and will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.

Is the Omicron variant more severe than other COVID-19 variants?

Early findings suggest that there is a reduced risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to the Delta variant. But WHO warns that it should not be dismissed as “mild”. Increased transmission is expected to lead to more hospitalizations. That increase causes strain on frontline workers and healthcare systems, which in turn can result in more deaths. It is important to remember that all variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, including the Delta variant that is still dominant worldwide, which is why preventing the spread of the virus and reducing your risk of exposure to the virus is so important.

Is the Omicron variant more contagious?

Yes, the Omicron variant is more contagious than previous variants. However, being vaccinated and taking precautions such as avoiding crowded spaces, keeping your distance from others and wearing a mask are critical in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we know these actions have been effective against other variants.

Does the Omicron variant cause different symptoms?

There is no information to suggest that Omicron causes different COVID-19 symptoms from other COVID-19 variants.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective against the Omicron variant?

Researchers are looking into any potential impact the Omicron variant has on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Information is still limited, but there may be a small reduction in the effectiveness of vaccines against severe illness and death, and a decline in preventing mild disease and infection. However, WHO reports that so far it looks like the currently available vaccines offer significant protection against severe disease and death.

It is also important to be vaccinated to protect against the other widely circulating variants, such as the Delta one. When it’s your turn, make sure to get vaccinated. If your vaccination involves two doses, it’s important to receive both in order to have the maximum protection.

Is a prior COVID-19 infection effective against the Omicron variant?

WHO reports that early evidence suggests that previous infection could offer less protection against Omicron in comparison to other variants of concern, such as Delta. Information is still limited though and we will share updates as it becomes available. You should get vaccinated even if you’ve previously had COVID-19. While people who recover from COVID-19 may develop some natural immunity to the virus, we do not yet know how long it lasts or how well you are protected. Vaccines offer more reliable protection.

Are children more likely to contract the Omicron variant?

Research is ongoing into Omicron’s transmissibility and we will update as more information becomes available. However, people who are mixing socially and those who are unvaccinated are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

How can I protect myself and my family against the Omicron variant?

The most important thing you can do is reduce your risk of exposure to the virus. To protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure to:

Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Make sure that your hands are clean when you put on and remove your mask.

Keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others.

• Avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces.

• Open windows to improve ventilation indoors.

• Wash your hands regularly.

When it’s your turn, get vaccinated. WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

Source: UNICEF

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