A new study found the Omicron variant may be less severe than other strains because of the way it attacks the lungs.
The study on mice and hamsters found that Omicron produced less damaging infections to the lungs. It instead was limited largely to the nose, throat, and windpipe.
Previous variants would cause scarring in the lungs and serious breathing difficulty.
“It’s fair to say that the idea of a disease that manifests itself primarily in the upper respiratory system is emerging,” said Roland Eils, a computational biologist at the Berlin Institute of Health who has studied how coronaviruses infect the airway.
Ravindra Gupta, a leading variant researcher at Cambridge University, said that Omicron “is doing its own thing in many ways. The biology of the virus is not the same as it was before. It’s almost a new thing.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has earlier warned of ‘tsunami’ of COVID cases in the near future. The declaration was due to Omicron spread.
The WHO further warned of the risk posed by the Omicron variant after COVID-19 case numbers shot up by 11 percent globally last week.
Omicron is behind the rapid virus spikes, the WHO said in its COVID weekly epidemiological update on Wednesday.
The update came after a number of countries reported record-high infection figures in recent days.
In some parts, the increase followed the emergence of the new Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa.