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WHO says PCR tests detect Omicron, new COVID-19 variant has higher reinfection risk

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that standard PCR tests for COVID-19 can detect infection with Omicron, and that the new variant has an increased risk of reinfection, according to preliminary evidence.

“The widely-used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests,” WHO said in an statement.

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The organization had declared on Friday that Omicron, which was detected earlier this month in South Africa, was a variant of concern.

WHO said preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron has an increased risk of reinfection, meaning that people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected with Omicron more easily, when compared to other variants.

It is not yet clear where Omicron spreads more easily from one person to the next, and studies are underway to determine its transmissibility compared to other variants, including the globally dominant Delta.

It is also not clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease when compared to infections with other variants, and there is no current information that suggest that the symptoms caused by the new variant are different from any other variant.

The health organization said that it is working to understand the potential impact of Omicron on the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments.

“Understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks,” WHO said.

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