Omicron subvariant ..highly communicable! here is full interview with Pasteur Institute-Algeria DG

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ALGIERS- The Omicron “BA.2” sub-variant will be highly communicable compared to other strains, given the experiences of the countries that have been exposed to it, said Wednesday, the Director General of the Pasteur Institute-Algeria.

Speaking on the epidemiological situation in Algeria, Pr. Faouzi Derrar affirmed in an interview with the Algerian Press Agency, that the infections with Omicron “BA.2” sub-variant will experience “a sharp increase of more than 90%”.

In this sense, the DG of the IPA renewed his appeal to people who have not yet been vaccinated to take their shots, and those who have received the first two doses to receive the third one, explaining that vaccination protects against this strain “from 80 to 90 %”.

“Despite the fact that this strain does not present a danger” compared to the still widespread Delta variant, the epidemiological situation is still not stable”, he explained, regretting the vaccination rate which has not yet reached the required level, and non-compliance with preventive measures.

The same official warned unvaccinated people who had been contaminated by the Omicron variant that they could be contaminated again by the BA.2 substrain, “and could be hospitalized, even in intensive care because of their immunity relatively low”.

Based on data from the World Health Organization, Pr. Derrar indicated that “it has not been yet possible to predict the changes that would occur on the Covid-19 virus, and that the return of some variants like Delta iq still possible”, underlining the need to adhere to the vaccination campaign, especially since the Institute Pasteur has a stock of all vaccines, estimated at 11 million doses.

Regarding the number of cases recorded daily (more than 1000 cases) in Algeria, despite the “stability of the epidemiological situation”, Professor Derrar mentioned serious cases in intensive care in addition to cases of death, adding that the enthusiasm for vaccination and compliance with preventive measures will help break the chain of transmission of infection.

Vaccination of children, “not on the agenda”

The director general of the Institute, who welcomed the decision to close schools after the cases of contamination recorded in educational establishments, clarified that the vaccination of children in Algeria “is not on the agenda” .

However, the best way to protect this category is to vaccinate adults, “able to reassure their children”, he added.

Regarding the availability of antigenic tests at the level of private pharmacies, after the strong proliferation of the Omicron variant, Professor Derrar welcomed the initiative which makes it possible to bring health protocols closer to the citizen.

He added that “the pharmacist, through his educational training, is able to carry out this kind of analysis to control the pandemic situation, in addition to reducing expenditure for the National Social Security Fund (CNAS ) induced by excessive prescription of antibiotics”.

Regarding people vaccinated with two doses and infected with the virus, Fawzi Derrar explained that “the degree of virulence of the virus is lower after the third day of contamination, even better after 5 days.

For the non-vaccinated, the virus reaches its peak from the 8th to the 10th day of contamination, during which the risk of contamination remains present, he said, specifying that a single person can contaminate 10 of his entourage , and 1 in 10 patients is at risk of hospitalization.

Faced with the growing number of Covid-19 infections within the justice sector personnel, the Ministry of Justice has stepped up measures to curb this rapid spread by freezing the judicial activities for 15 days. The presidents of the tribunals and courts, as well as the representatives of the public prosecutor’s office have received correspondence, specifying that the criminal and correctional hearings of the defendants who are not in pre-trial detention, as well as those of the social affairs, family and administrative sections, will be automatically ajourned to dates later than February 13.

For their part, the trials of the accused, who are remanded in custody, are not concerned by this ministerial note.

The ministry also ordered the suspension, for the same reasons, of the reception of citizens in the courthouses and the registration of new cases at the registry, with the exception of files stamped with the seal of urgency.

In a related context, the Culture Ministry announced that museums, cinemas, libraries and other sites would be closed to the public ‘until the health situation improves’.

In addition, schools across the country are shut to curb the spread of the virus.

For its part, the wilaya of Algiers announced, in a press release, new restrictive measures. To this end, public recreational spaces for leisure and relaxation will be shut for a period of ten days, as of Thursday, January 20.

The wilaya of Algiers also called for “strict compliance” with preventive measures in large commercial areas, urban transport and administrations while the wearing of a mask remains “compulsory”.

The wilaya also stressed that “any violation of health protection measures in stores and commercial spaces would lead the the rigorous application of the administrative sanctions in force “.

Health minister called, for his part, Algerians to get vaccinated and save hospitals from collapse as the nation faces a rebound of COVID-19 infections.

He encouraged major institutions including universities to encourage staff to get vaccinated, and organise vaccination drives for employees.

“I urge you to get vaccinated and break the chain of infections which risk bringing our health institutions to their knees,” health minister Abderahmane Benbouzid said at a press conference in the capital, Algiers.

“For now, the hospital staff are managing. The question is, for how long can they hold on?”

Algeria is battling infections from both the delta variant and the highly contagious omicron variant, which now accounts for 60% of COVID-19 infections.

Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to studies. Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.

The inoculation rate in Algeria remains low. Less than a quarter of the population has had even one vaccine dose despite the government’s robust vaccination campaign in state media and on social networks.

Algeria has a stock of vaccines that can largely ensure coverage of vaccination needs for two years, the minister said. Overall, only 13% of Algeria’s 45 million inhabitants, have been inoculated, the minister said. Of eligible adults, only 29% have received two vaccine doses, he said.

In December, Algeria started requiring a vaccine passport to enter many public venues, seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused.

The pass is also required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for entering sports facilities, cinemas, theaters, museums, town halls and other sites like hammams — bath houses that are popular across the region.

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