Based on early evidence seen in South Africa, the Omicron Covid-19 variant is transmitting faster than the Delta variant, says Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and former head of South Africa's Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
Karim told CNN’s John Berman on New Day Monday that there’s still a lot to learn about the traits of the variant, and it will be a couple weeks until more answers are clear.
“The reality is we’ve only know about this virus for just over a week, so we don’t really have the kind of data required to answer those questions definitively,” Karim said, when asked if the Omicron variant was more transmissible, more virulent and if it evades vaccines.
While little is known about the new variant and studies are underway, he said there are a few things that we can extrapolate and expect.
"Put very simply ... Omicron, has mutations that are common to the other four previous variants of concern. So it has mutations that are similar to the Delta variant. So we are expecting it to transmit faster," he told CNN.
"And based on what we have seen with the overlap of the Beta variant, we are seeing some evidence of immune escape from antibodies. There will probably be some partial escape. And that's what we are expecting," Karim added.
"The data for that to confirm exactly those points that I've raised probably will take another two to three weeks."
Symptoms of this variant in patients are also harder to pin-point, he said.