The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that "more than 50 percent of the population in the region will be infected with Omicron in the next six to eight weeks." Dr. Hans Kluge of the World Health Organization concurs. "Today the Omicron variant represents a new west-to-east tidal wave, sweeping across the region on top of the Delta surge that all countries were managing until late 2021," he said at a news conference.
Recent studies suggest that Omicron is less likely to make people seriously ill than previous Covid variants. But Omicron is still highly contagious and can infect people even if they are fully vaccinated.
On Monday, the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer said it would be able to launch a version of its vaccine that offers special protection against Omicron, to be rolled out in March. Health experts say it is not yet clear whether this is needed.