PAHO: Omicron will soon be the main variant in the Americas

The Pan American Health Organization says omicron is expected to become the dominant coronavirus variant in the Americas in the coming weeks, where confirmed cases have reached record levels

“While Delta is still causing new infections in the Americas, based on current trends, omicron is expected to be the dominant strain in our region,” the agency’s director, Carissa Etienne, said in an online news release.

Coronavirus cases in the Americas nearly doubled to 6.1 million on Jan. 8, from 3.4 million on Jan. 1, the Pan American Health Organization said. The number of cases is up 250% from 2.4 million in the same period last year.

In the first week of 2022, the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the Americas rose 31 percent from the previous week, it said.

The more transmissible variant of omicron has been detected in 42 of 56 countries and territories in the Americas.

Omicron can infect both vaccinated and already infected people, but some studies suggest it is less likely to cause more severe disease than the delta variant, and immunizations and booster doses provide strong protection.

But the Pan American Health Organization warned that omicron could still be lethal in unvaccinated and immunocompromised people, and urged countries to continue vaccination and prevention campaigns.

Nearly 60 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s population is fully vaccinated, but about 10 countries in the region — especially the Caribbean — fall short of the World Health Organization’s target of 40 percent by the end of 2021. The target is 70% by the middle of this year.