The World Health Organization said Friday it had not seen any reports of deaths relating to the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The WHO said it was collecting evidence about the variant of concern (VOC), as countries around the world scramble to stop it from spreading.
But despite a growing number of countries registering infections with the new variant, no deaths have yet been reported to the UN health agency.
“I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“We’re collecting all the evidence and we will find much more evidence as we go along.
“The more countries… keep testing people, and looking specifically into the Omicron variant, we will also find more cases, more information, and, hopefully not, but also possibly deaths.”
While Omicron has rattled the world, Lindmeier also urged people to be mindful of the Delta variant, which accounts for 99.8 percent of sequences uploaded to the GISAID global science initiative with specimens collected in the last 60 days.
“Omicron may be on the rise, and we may come to a point where it takes over to be the dominant variant, but at this point, the very dominant variant remains Delta,” he stressed.
Lindmeier added: “The restrictions that were put into place in many countries just two weeks ago — economical closures again, lockdowns in some areas, closures of Christmas markets in parts of Europe — this was done before Omicron because of a rise of Delta cases. Let’s not lose sight of this.”
The spokesman urged people to use proven measures to protect themselves against Delta — and thereby against Omicron.
The WHO has said it will take several weeks to get a full picture of the transmissibility and disease severity of Omicron and to assess how vaccines, tests, and treatments hold up against the new variant.
As Omicron spreads, pieces of information are emerging from various countries.
“What we need to do is we need to take all these observations, assessments and tests and get this information together and then have the experts look at it, carefully weigh it and come up with the assessment. That will still take some time,” said Lindmeier.
“Preliminary data show that there is higher transmissibility. But that’s basically all we have so far.”
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Sudan Revokes Licence Of Al Jazeera Live TV Unit
Sudan has revoked the licence of Al Jazeera Mubasher, part of the Qatar-based network, accusing it of “unprofessional” TV coverage of anti-coup protests, the channel said Sunday.
“The Sudanese authorities announce they revoked the accreditation of Al Jazeera Mubasher and barred its team from working in Sudan,” tweeted the news channel.
Sudan has been gripped by political turmoil since top military leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan launched a coup on October 25.
The military power grab triggered mass protests by pro-democracy movements demanding civilian rule that has met with a deadly crackdown.
At least 64 protesters have been killed, according to pro-democracy medics, and a police officer has also lost his life.
Al Jazeera has given prominent coverage to the demonstrations and late last year also aired an interview with Burhan.
In November, days after the interview, it said that its Khartoum bureau chief Al-Musalami al-Kabbashi had been arrested at his home.
Kabbashi was released three days later with no official charges announced against him.
The editor-in-chief of the armed forces newspaper Ibrahim al-Hory later accused Kabbashi of publishing “false” information and of airing “old video footage… that instigated strife” in the country.
Burhan declared a state of emergency on October 25, ousted the government and detained the civilian leadership.
Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok was placed under house arrest but later reinstated in a deal with the military.
Hamdok then resigned on January 2 warning that Sudan was at a dangerous crossroads threatening its very “survival”.
Burhan has insisted the military’s move “was not a coup” but a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.
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Mali Ex-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita Is Dead
Mali’s former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who led the West African country from 2013 until he was ousted in a coup in 2020, died at the age of 76 in the capital Bamako on Sunday, his family said.
“President IBK died this morning at 0900 GMT in his home” in Bamako, a family member told AFP using the ex-leader’s initials, with several other family members confirming his passing.
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Pig Heart Transplanted Into American Man In Breakthrough Surgery (See Photos)
Surgeons at University of Maryland Medical Center have performed the first-of-its-kind procedure on a Maryland resident identified as David Bennett.
The 57-year-old man who was out of options, became the first successful recipient of a genetically-modified pig heart.
Bennett was diagnosed with a terminal heart disease and had been hospitalized and bedridden for several weeks after being “deemed ineligible” for a traditional heart transplant.
The patient said in a statement published by the University of Maryland Medical Center; “It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.
“I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”
U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery under its compassionate use provision on New Year’s Eve.
Researchers said the procedure required 10 unique gene edits to the pig heart in order to prevent the rejection of the organ once transplanted into the human body.
These edits included deleting four of the animal’s genes responsible for antibody-mediated rejection of pig organs by humans, as well as inserting six human genes into the genome for immune acceptance.
Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the surgery said in a statement; “This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis. There are simply not enough donor human hearts available to meet the long list of potential recipients.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”
Three days after the surgery, the university medical center said on Monday January 10 that Bennett is doing well and will continue to be monitored in the coming weeks to ensure the organ isn’t rejected.
He is still connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, but the new heart is functioning and taking on a majority of the work for his body, the surgeons told The New York Times.
Bennett could be taken off the bypass machine as early as Tuesday January 11, if all goes well, his doctors said.
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