Omicron analysis needed to determine impact — experts

As of Monday, November 29, 2021 Jordan did not record the new COVID-19 Omicron variant. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — As questions from Jordanians began to mount surrounding the newly discovered coronavirus variant, the secretary-general of the Health Ministry for epidemiological affairs, Dr. Adel Belbisi, told a local news outlet that as of November 28, there had been no recorded cases of the Omicron variant in the Kingdom. اضافة اعلان

Many Jordanian experts are reserving judgment surrounding the dangers of the Omicron variant, citing the need for more research and data to be released to the public before rushing to assess the economic and health implications of the new variant. 

Dr. Hamed Alzoubi, a virologist and member of the National Epidemiological Committee, told Jordan News that to best understand the nature and impact of the Omicron variant, a detailed analysis of its genetic sequence is needed; a process almost exclusively done in laboratories. 

“Based on early observations of Omicron’s biological composition, we can expect to see that this variant will possibly be more infectious than the Delta variant, meaning it will probably spread faster than Delta,” Alzoubi noted.

However, more crucially, according to Alzoubi, even if a particular strain is more infectious, this does not necessarily mean that it will cause more severe symptoms among patients. “Higher infectiousness is only indicative of a potential surge of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom; but whether or not the omicron variant is more dangerous than previously discovered variants is still undetermined.”

Alzoubi believes that the potential of returning to lockdowns will most likely depend on the pressure that will impact the local medical sector and the number of hospital admissions. “If the Omicron variant does not overwhelm our hospitals and frontline workers, then Jordan will probably not need to re-impose lockdowns.” 

Alzoubi highlighted the importance of continuing to wear the facemask in public places and maintaining physical distancing while reminding Jordanians of the fact that vaccinated individuals have a significant advantage over non-vaccinated individuals. 

Former Health Minister Dr. Walid Maani shared the same opinion that it is too early to discern whether the Omicron variant is more dangerous than the Delta variant. He told Jordan News that “an additional 2 to 3 weeks of extensive study on this variant is needed before determining the full extent of its biological impact on humans.” 

Immunocompromised people remain particularly vulnerable to Omicron, said Maani, predicting that infected people would likely have the same symptoms as the original coronavirus strain that first emerged, reiterating the fact that the full details surrounding the symptoms of Omicron are still undetermined. Maani opted to reserve judgment on whether or not Omicron will spread faster than other variants but that its arrival to Jordan "will simply be a matter of time," 

Health officials from South Africa have attributed the latest spike in COVID-19 infections in the country’s hospitals to the newly mutated Omicron variant. Cases of this variant have been found in multiple countries, like Australia and the Netherlands, according to their local authorities, emerging most likely as a result of international travel.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been approximately 940,000 infections recorded in the Kingdom, and nearly 11,550 deaths.  Government-approved campaigns to encourage more Jordanians to get vaccinated remain active.

Read more National news