The highly contagious Omicron coronavirus now accounts for nearly all new infections in Italy, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on Friday, accounting for almost 96% of cases in a flash Jan. 17 survey.

The previous survey from Jan. 3 showed Omicron responsible for 81% of cases.

"In Italy on January 17, the Omicron variant was predominant, with an estimated prevalence of 95.8%, while Delta was at 4.2% of the sample tested", the Institute said in a statement.

The analysis is based on 2,486 swabs tested in 124 laboratories and collected in all 21 Italian regions and autonomous provinces, it said.

Worldwide, according to this week's World Health Organization report, the Omicron variant accounts for 89.1% of cases, while Delta accounts for 10.7%.

Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020, has seen new infections flattening in recent days.

Italy reported 155,697 COVID-19 related cases on Thursday, down from 167,206 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 389 from 426.






(Reporting by Emilio Parodi, editing by Tomasz Janowski) ((; +39 06 8030 7744))