WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the world should not panic about the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 but should be prepared.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the situation now was very different to a year ago.
WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan urged caution over the next few weeks, but expressed confidence measures can be put in place to combat the Omicron variant.
"I think what Omicron does is gives us an extra incentive to recognise that we're not out of this yet. The virus is not done with us, but as I said, we need to trust in the science now and be patient and not be fearful. We will be able to do whatever needs to be done to adjust our strategies, to adjust our countermeasures, we can do that," he asserted.
The Omicron variant has been found in almost 40 countries.
It is still unclear if the highly mutated variant is more transmissible or better able to evade vaccines.
Early data reported by scientists in South Africa - where the variant was first detected - suggests Omicron may evade some immunity to COVID-19, although experts cautioned that the analysis is not definitive.