Omicron-related COVID-19 cases have displayed only mild symptoms so far: MOH

MOH added that there is an emerging view that existing COVID-19 vaccines will still work on the Omicron variant.

Amanda Tan

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Published: 6 December 2021, 11:49 AM

Most COVID-19 cases with the Omicron variant have displayed mild symptoms and there have been no Omicron-related deaths reported, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in an update on Dec 5.

Common symptoms reported include sore throat, tiredness and cough, the health ministry added. 

There is an emerging view among scientists around the world that existing COVID-19 vaccines will still work on the Omicron variant, especially in protecting people against severe illness.

However, studies on vaccine effectiveness for infection and severe disease compared to previous variants are ongoing. More information on the variant’s biological behaviour is expected to become available in the coming weeks, said MOH. 

In the meantime, there is strong scientific consensus that people should take their vaccinations and boosters to protect themselves against any existing and future variants of COVID-19. MOH has urged Singaporeans to get vaccinated if they have been offered a vaccination or booster dose.

Currently, MOH is working with its international counterparts to find out more about the variant such as how severe it is and if there’s a specific demographic it targets. 

The ministry has been reviewing reports from South Africa and other countries that have reported COVID-19 cases with the Omicron variant, and has actively engaged scientific experts in various affected countries to obtain first-hand information.

So far, it has gathered that the Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) are an effective method to detect Omicron cases, in addition to the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. 

With reference to early clinical observations from South Africa and globally, it seems that the variant might have increased transmissibility. It may also be associated with a higher risk of re-infection, compared to the Delta and Beta variants.

This means that there is a higher likelihood of individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to be re-infected with the Omicron variant.

In South Africa, there were more Omicron-related hospitalisations among young adults and children. This has been attributed to two possible factors – high infection rates amongst the population and existing patients who were being hospitalised for non-COVID-19 related illnesses being tested positive for the Omicron variant. These patients mostly experienced mild symptoms.

However, MOH reinforced that it is too early to conclude on the severity of the disease. 

The outbreak was first detected in a University town with a younger demographic. According to the South African health experts, any hospitalisation stays for this demographic thus far have been short, of about one to two days.

In the coming weeks, MOH will need to obtain more information about infections in older individuals to assess if the variant is more severe than the Delta variant.

MOH added: “We expect to see more Omicron cases being reported globally in the weeks to come, and we must expect to detect more cases at our borders and, in time to come, also within our community.”

MOH will continue to coordinate with health authorities globally to study and understand the Omicron variant, so as to develop the best possible response.

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