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Omicron: What the science says

Burnet Institute

15 December, 2021

As the world tries to come to terms with the Omicron variant and its impact, the Herald Sun has published a useful explainer to address key questions, including ‘Do vaccines work?’, ‘What are the symptoms?’, and ‘How are different countries responding?’.

While early evidence suggests the new COVID-19 variant produces milder symptoms, countries such as South Africa and Britain are now reporting exploding hospitalisation rates.

Increasing restrictions as UK records first Omicron death

Early this week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the nation’s first Omicron death.

It’s thought to be the first confirmed death caused by the variant in the world, although that’s not entirely clear due to lack of testing in countries like South Africa where the variant is more widespread.

The UK has now banned flights from 11 African countries, similar to Australia, which has suspended flights from nine African countries.

The UK’s population has also been ordered to work from home and use vaccine passports to attend nightclubs and soccer matches, with the government planning to update the definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated” to include the third booster shot.

Other countries in Europe are also adopting a range of stricter measures to prevent infections.

Efficacy of current vaccines

“Studies suggest Omicron can escape the protection given by vaccines,” the Herald Sun article states.

“Pfizer and BioNTech say a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine neutralised the Omicron variant in lab tests — but warned two doses was significantly less effective at blocking the virus.”

What are the symptoms?

According to doctors in South Africa where Omicron was first detected, the main symptoms are fatigue, body aches and a headache.

This differs from the three main symptoms of COVID-19 - a cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

Doctors in the UK are also seeing an ‘unusual rash’ that has been linked to cases of the new strain in children.

“As a result of the new signs, coronavirus cases are ‘being missed’ as people are looking for the wrong symptoms, experts have warned,” the article explains.

Read the full article here

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