Manning calls for caution as scientific information on new COVID-19 Omicron Variant is developed

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Commissioner of Police and Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response David Manning has reassured the nation that a careful watch is being undertaken of the new emerging COVID-19 strain that has been named as Omicron.

Mr Manning said the Government has preparations in place to deploy a rapid response to the new threat, drawing from lessons learned during the recent spread of the Delta variant around the country.

While scientists continue their investigation into the new variant, the Controller said people around the world must be patient and ready to respond.

Mr Manning said, “The greatest problem right now is a lack of clear information from global health agencies. The WHO and other leading bodies are unable to provide clear guidance, which is a concern for many developing countries, while there has been a range of different responses by developed economies.

“We know from experience that it is impossible to keep new strains out of any country, it is more a question of how long you can keep it out and use that time to prepare.

“When the Delta variant began to spread around the world earlier this year, our government acted swiftly to delay its arrival and spread so that we could more effectively prepare our Government agencies and personnel.

“The COVID-19 Omicron variant is already on our doorstep, with five confirmed cases in Australia that are now in quarantine, so we will continue to monitor the situation and communicate with our global partners.

“A series of revised COVID-19 Control Measures have been prepared and will be applied when the appropriate course of action is agreed.

“Any decisions made in response to the Omicron will be based on scientific information, the health of our people and the recovery of our national economy.

“The coming days will be crucial for Papua New Guinea and countries around the world to better understand and manage the spread of the Omicron variant.

“In the meantime, I urge people in high-risk groups such as front-line workers, the elderly and people with comorbidities to seek qualified advice and make their choice if they wish to vaccinate before it is too late.”

Mr Manning said the new COVID-19 Omicron variant was first identified from tests taken earlier this month in Southern Africa, and it has now spread to numerous countries.

“The new strain carries with it a number of concerns, and there is very little known about the Omicron variant by scientists around the world. The Omicron strain has a higher number of mutations than have been identified, and some of these mutations relate to the ability of the virus to penetrate human cells.

“To put this into perspective, Omicron has roughly 50 mutations of note that includes over 32 on the virus’ spike protein, whereas the Delta strain had five mutations and Beta had two,” Mr Manning said.

The Omicron strain of COVID-19 is the fifth now identified as a variant of Interest by the WHO. As of 30 November, Omicron has been detected in ten countries which are Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eswatini, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Media contact: Chief Superintendent Dominic D. Kakas, BEM, DPS
COVID-19 Media & Public Information  Joint Agency Task Force
Mobile: 75430557 email: ddkakas@gmail.com

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