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The World Health Organization expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the cornavirus within days, its technical lead on Covid-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

That was faster than the "weeks" the WHO had predicted last week that it would take to assess the data available on the variant after designating it a "variant of concern", its highest rating.

She said one possible scenario was that the new variant, which was first reported in southern Africa, may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant. 

She said it was not yet known if Omicron makes people more ill. 

At least 23 countries from all six WHO regions have now reported cases of Omicron, and we expect that number to grow, WHO Director-General said in a separate briefing.

WHO called on all countries to take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures, in keeping with the international health regulations.

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