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Omicron variant not as severe as feared: Health ministry

Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health has urged Ugandans to remain calm even if the Omicron COVID-19 variant has been detected in the country.

This comes following the detection of nine Omicron variant cases among travellers from South Africa and Nigeria. The variant was first detected in South Africa on November 9, and has since been reported in over 38 countries.

Initial data from the World Health Organisation preliminary studies showed that Omicron is three times more likely to re-infect people compared to other strains such as Beta or Delta. In South Africa, the variant has led to an increase of COVID-19 cases by 311 percent, but no deaths linked to the variant have been recorded yet globally.

The World Health Organisation says that it might take weeks to determine whether the virus causes severe illness. But according to health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, while the variant seems to spread faster, it does not seem to cause severe disease like the Delta variant which was detected in June 2021. Delta accounts for more than half of the country’s total cases and deaths that stand at 127,755 and 3,261 respectively.

Dr Aceng says that all the persons who have tested positive for the disease are being managed and none of them have severe forms of the disease. “We have isolated them but so far they are fine and have mild forms of the disease,” Dr Aceng added.

She urged all Ugandans to get vaccinated since the evidence shows that the variant is being detected mostly among people who are not vaccinated against COVID. In addition to vaccination, scientists say people need to adhere to the standard operating procedures.

Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, which is currently studying the Omicron variant says following the SOPs will protect people.

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