Chinese top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan speaks with reporters during a respiratory disease conference held in Guangzhou City, south China's Guangdong Province, November 28, 2021. (Photo/CMG)
It still takes a period of time to find out how harmful the new COVID-19 variant Omicron is, and it's too early to reach a conclusion about it yet, Chinese top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said Sunday.
The variant, first detected in South Africa earlier this week, is very new, Zhong told reporters at a respiratory disease conference held in Guangzhou City, south China's Guangdong Province.
Although molecular genetic test has shown it has quite many mutations on its receptor binding domain, which is the part that the virus uses to get into human cells, it still takes some time to know how fast it can spread, whether it will cause more severe disease, and whether new vaccines are needed to target it, Zhong said.
He added that close attention should be paid to the new variant, but no big moves will be taken for the moment.
He also noted that prevention and control measures should be taken against travelers from South Africa and its relative regions.
Global authorities have reacted with alarm to the new strain, with the EU, Britain, India and Israel among those announcing stricter border controls.