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The World Health Organisation on Sunday released its latest findings on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus
According to the WHO, preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with 'Omicron' - people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with this variant.
It is not yet clear whether 'Omicron' is more transmissible (more easily spread from person to person) compared to Delta and other variants. For now, RT-PCR tests can detect the strain.
The WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on vaccines.
It is not yet clear whether infection with 'Omicron' causes more severe disease. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.
Preliminary data suggests increased hospitalisation in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with 'Omicron'. Initial reported infections were among university studies - younger individuals who tend to have milder symptoms - but understanding the level of severity of the 'Omicron' variant will take days to several weeks.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has directed all states to ensure that for passengers from countries other than those labelled "at-risk," 5% of the total number of passengers on a flight will be subjected to random testing upon arrival at airports. All European Union countries, as well as the United Kingdom, South Africa, and New Zealand are classified as "at risk." As of Sunday, at least nine countries had confirmed finding Omicron infections.
People who test negative after arriving in the listed countries will be required to enter home quarantine and take another test on the eighth day. The guidelines state that if they are positive, they must contact the helpline.
"Children under the age of five are exempt from both pre- and post-arrival testing." However, if they are found to be symptomatic for Covid-19 upon arrival or during the home quarantine period, they must be tested and treated according to the protocol," the guidelines states.