The annual meeting, which was set to take place in late January 2022, has been deferred to early summer, according to Adrian Monck, WEF Managing Director of Public Engagement.
“Current pandemic conditions make it extremely difficult to deliver a global in-person meeting,” Monck said. “Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary.”
Omicron, a highly mutated and more transmissible variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread fast around the globe after being first detected last month in southern Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Saturday that Omicron cases have now been reported in 89 countries, and that the number of infections was doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community spread.
While preliminary indications suggest Omicron may be less virulent, and so less dangerous, the WHO said there is still limited data on its severity.
“A lot of the initial reports are that people with Omicron tend to have milder disease but it doesn’t mean that it’s not dangerous, it doesn’t mean that it’s quote-unquote ‘only mild,’” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and COVID-19 technical lead at the WHO, said on Dec. 16.
“With increased transmissibility, you’re going to have more cases,” she continued. “More cases mean more hospitalizations. More hospitalizations will mean more deaths.”
Health experts in South Africa have said Omicron was not driving up hospitalizations or fatalities in the country to a significant degree.
“According to scientific studies, this virus is spreading quicker than in previous waves, but the rates of hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low,” South Africa’s Ministry of Health said in a news release Thursday.
But a new study by Imperial College in London found “no evidence” of Omicron causing less severe disease than Delta, though it noted that hospitalization data remains “very limited at this time.”
The study also found that the risk of reinfection with the Omicron variant is over five times higher than with Delta, which implies that the protection against Omicron afforded by prior infection could be as low as 19 percent.