24 January 2022

What we know about the Omicron variant

People around the world are concerned about the Omicron variant of COVID-19. We’ve gathered the latest expert information about this new variant and will continue to update this article as more information becomes available. For more tips and information on COVID-19, see our  COVID-19 guide for parents . Last updated: 17 December 2021, What is the Omicron variant? , The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been called a variant of concern by WHO based on the evidence that it has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves. There is still substantial uncertainty regarding Omicron and a lot of research underway to evaluate its transmissibility, severity and reinfection risk.  , How did the Omicron variant develop? , When a virus is circulating widely and causing numerous infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more opportunities it has to undergo changes. New variants like Omicron are a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. It is therefore essential that people get the…, Where is the Omicron variant present? , The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world. WHO reports that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet.  , Is the Omicron variant more severe than other COVID-19 variants? , Early findings suggest that Omicron might be less severe than the Delta variant, but more data is needed and WHO warns that it should not be dismissed as “mild”. Studies are ongoing and this information will be updated as it becomes available.  It is important to remember that all variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, including…, Is the Omicron variant more contagious? , Omicron is spreading more quickly than other variants. Based on the information available, WHO believes it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where there is COVID-19 transmission in the community.  However, being vaccinated and taking precautions such as avoiding crowded spaces, keeping your distance from others and wearing a…, 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…, 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…, Do current COVID-19 tests detect the Omicron variant? , The widely used PCR and antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests continue to detect infection of COVID-19, including Omicron.  , 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…, How can I talk to my child about the Omicron and other COVID-19 variants?, News about COVID-19 and now the Omicron variant is flooding our daily lives and it is only natural that curious young children will have questions – lots of them. Here are some pointers to keep in mind tips for helping to explain what can be a complicated topic in simple and reassuring terms.  Children have a right to know what is going on, but it…