Amid the cloud of concerns regarding the Omicron coronavirus variant, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said emerging evidence suggests that Omicron has increased infectivity and not a "severe profile".
"If one looks at the transmissibility, we have molecular evidence to suggest that the mutations that are seen in Omicron and in other variants would suggest that they are associated with increased infectivity," CNN reported Dr Fauci as saying during a virtual White House briefing.
"Real-world evidence is accumulating rapidly - literally on a daily basis - to allow us to determine the increase in cases, possible increase in reproductive number and the rapid replacement of Delta by Omicron in certain situations," he stated.
However, Dr Fauci said that it is still too early to be able to determine the precise severity of disease caused by the Omicron variant, CNN reported.
Referring to South African data, he said, "It appears that with the cases that are seen, we are not seeing a very severe profile of the disease. A study from South Africa shows that there appears to be an increased propensity for reinfection with Omicron among people who were previously infected with other coronavirus variants, such as Beta and Delta."
He said the world can expect to learn more about the Omicron variant in the next couple of weeks. Most of the data on the severity will likely come first from South Africa, due to the volume of cases.
"Given the severity, hospitalization and death are always lagging indicators, I would imagine it will take at least another couple of weeks before we have a good handle and then a really good handle a few weeks thereafter. So, I would say we shouldn't be making any definitive conclusions, certainly not before the next couple of weeks," Fauci told CNN during the briefing.
The new variant of COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 25.
As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.
On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'. The WHO has classified Omicron as a 'variant of concern'.