WHO Reminds Cambodia to be Ready for a Possible Surge of Omicron

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia has reminded the Kingdom to be ready for a possible surge of the emerging COVID-19 variant of concern Omicron.

The following is the statement of WHO Cambodia released on Nov. 27:

“The B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant ("Omicron") was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021. Infections in South Africa have increased steeply in recent weeks, coinciding with detection of this new variant. There is a high risk that Omicron will be imported and soon found in the Cambodian community in this highly interconnected world.

Omicron is worrying for the global response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other Variants of Concern (VOCs). Omicron has also been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may be able to infect people easily, which would make it more transmissible. We do not know about vaccine effectiveness on this variant; researchers are looking into potential impact on vaccines and other tools. They are also working to understand more about the mutations and what they potentially mean for how virulent this variant is.

However, the positive news is that current COVID-19 PCR diagnostics continue to detect Omicron, so we can track its spread. We can adjust and enhance our COVID-19 response based on new information, to mitigate its threat. This could include enhancing surveillance, sequencing and implementing risk-based international border measures. Adjustments and changes in our responses will continue to be made as we learn more about this new variant, and these swift decisions will demonstrate that the risk-based and scientific approach to the virus is working. Information on Omicron is rapidly evolving and as more evidence comes to light, health authorities will respond appropriately to keep the community safe.

"Cambodia should be concerned about the newly detected Variant of Concern Omicron despite the high COVID-19 vaccination coverage," said Dr Li Ailan, WHO Representative to Cambodia, "Everyone should be ready for a possible surge, and we should continue to learn and adjust our response measures."

The most effective way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and the Cambodia community at large is to continue effective public health and social measures. The Cambodia's three dos and three don'ts remain crucial. The wearing of close-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoiding crowded places and improving ventilation of indoors spaces are our strongest defence against COVID-19, including against new variants. COVID-19 vaccination remains vital, especially for protecting the high risk and vulnerable populations such as health care workers and the elderly.

WHO continues to assess the rapidly changing situation, monitor Omicron's emergence and spread, and advise on measures to respond to its threat. The pandemic is not over. Cambodia has been making every effort to save lives and protect health while implementing a safe and sustainable reopening.”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press