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Dr Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, said the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus can still be dangerous, especially in people who are older, immunosuppressed or not up-to-date with their vaccination.

"If you're immunosuppressed (or just concerned about getting sick) and people around you aren't masking, consider upping your mask game to a more protective N95 — they aren't perfect, but they block airborne particles better than a cloth or surgical mask," the former CDC director said in a blog post.

He further said, "Across the country, masks are coming down…just as Covid cases are going up."

"More than 90% of Americans have some level of immunity to Covid — from vaccinations, prior infection, or both, and Omicron is not as fierce as earlier strains. But as the deaths in Hong Kong and continued deaths and long Covid cases around the world show, Omicron can still be deadly," he added.

The highly transmissible variant is believed to have emerged in November last year in South Africa and Botswana due to inadequate immunisation in African countries before spreading globally.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins scientist Amita Gupta said that no one is safe from Covid until everyone in the world gets vaccinated.

“Global vaccine inequity remains an issue both within India and globally. For example, in the continent of Africa less than 20 per cent of the population is currently vaccinated and there are countries in Africa still with less than 2 per cent vaccinated," Gupta told PTI in an email interview.

As immunities wane and new Covid variants emerge, it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and boosted, she said.

“It is not enough to fully vaccinate only a few countries. Health workers and highest-risk populations in all countries must be fully vaccinated to stop the pandemic," she added.

 

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