Expert at Weill Cornell Medicine — Qatar, says infections caused by Omicron variant are unlikely to last long.
As COVID cases continue to rise globally, things could soon be calming down on this side of the world.
According to Dr. Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad, who is the Principal Investigator of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medicine—Qatar (WCM-Q), the sudden rise of cases caused by Omicron in Qatar and other countries might end soon.
“The Omicron spreads fast, but the good thing is that we don’t expect it to last long. We should get back to the situation prior to the variant in a few weeks,” he told The Peninsula.
As it stands, figures from the MoPH show 41,718 active cases of Covid-19, with 3998 of them having been detected within the last 24 hours. As compared to the number of new infections on Sunday, it looks like Qatar might have turned a corner.
Since it was first detected, Omicron has been spreading faster than any variant identified before. It has a transmission rate of 2.7 to 3.7 times faster than delta, even amongst fully vaccinated individuals.
According to Dr. Abu-Raddad, those who have recovered from a previous Covid-19 infection or are vaccinated are be better protected from the Omicron variant. A recent study conducted by WMC-Q and other Qatari collaborating institutions showed that people who were previously infected with the coronavirus are 56% less likely to catch the Omicron variant. And out of ten positive cases, nine of them likely won’t need medical attention.
Dr. Abu-Raddad, who is also the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for combating infectious diseases in the region, added that due to Omicron’s highly transmissible and fast-spreading nature, it will not last long. “By now, the Covid-19 virus has extensively changed from the original one initially found in China… Omicron is very different from other variants, it spreads fast but does not cause as much severe illness,” he said.
However, the need for vaccination remains. Dr. Abu-Raddad emphasized that getting a booster shot is vital to strengthen the immune system.
So far, Qatar has administered over 486,423 booster doses, and 86.7% of the entire population has been fully immunised, having had at least the first two shots of the MoPH approved vaccines. The country has also implemented tighter restrictions amidst the third wave.
- Only vaccinated customers are allowed inside restaurants and cafes
- Markets will operate with a capacity not exceeding 75%.
- Social gatherings and visits in open places in homes and majlis are limited to a maximum of 15 vaccinated people outdoors, and 10 in closed spaces, not including family members living in the same house.
- Gatherings in public parks, beaches and the Corniche are limited to a maximum of 15 people or family members residing in the same house.
- Mosques will still be open to the public for all the prayers, but those under 12 will not be allowed in.
“New variants are evolving, but the vaccines we have today were developed to protect against the original virus,” he said. Just last week, Pfizer stated on its website that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to neutralise the Omicron variant.
The WHO Collaborating Centre is working jointly with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in Qatar and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), to provide scientific analyses that will help direct the national response towards preventing the spread of the disease.
Dr. Abu-Raddad said that the strategies and decision-making in Qatar are informed by scientific analyses, which helps reduce the severity of the issue in the country.