The Omicron variant of Covid-19 poses a very high risk and is likely to spread globally, the World Health Organization said in a technical brief to member countries on Monday.

The global health body shared the technical brief with member countries three days after it designated Omicron as a “variant of concern”. A “variant of concern” has the highest threat perception among other coronavirus variants because of its increased transmissibility, infectivity, or resistance to vaccines.

The Omicron variant’s mutations may enable it to escape the immune system and may allow it to be transmitted more widely, the World Health Organization said.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID‐19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the global health body noted. “The overall global risk related to the new VOC [variant of concern] Omicron is assessed as very high.”

The World Health Body said that the Omicron variant has an “unprecedented number” of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the pandemic.

The organisation said that no deaths related to the variant have been reported till now. However, it noted that Covid-19 cases had increased steeply in South Africa in recent weeks, coinciding with the detection of the Omicron variant.

The variant was first detected in South Africa on November 24.

Need for new accord on pandemics: WHO chief

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 shows why the world needs a new accord on pandemics, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said on Monday. “Our current system disincentivises countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores,” Ghebreyesus remarked.

On Sunday, the organisation had criticised countries for introducing travel restrictions on account of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and called for borders to remain open.

“The emergence of the highly-mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is,” the WHO chief added.