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Case, vaccine data mark small victories in Omicron battle

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Two vaccine makers said their shots protected against Omicron as UK data suggested it may cause proportionally fewer hospital cases than the Delta variant, though public health experts warned the battle against Covid-19 was far from over.

Similarly encouraging signs about hospitalisation rates emerged from South Africa on Wednesday, but the head of a leading African health agency joined the World Health Organization in cautioning that it was too soon to draw broad conclusions about Omicron’s virulence.

“Let’s be careful not to extrapolate what we are seeing in South Africa across the continent, or across the world,” Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) chief John Nkengasong told a media briefing.

Coronavirus infections have soared wherever highly infectious Omicron has spread, triggering new restrictions in many countries.

First identified last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong, the variant is becoming dominant in much of Europe including Britain, where daily new infections have soared beyond 100,000.

In Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the pandemic last year, the National Health Institute said Omicron would soon predominate, while Greece banned public Christmas festivities to curb its spread. Both countries also made outdoor mask-wearing mandatory.

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