BRUSSELS (AP) — The discovery of a new coronavirus variant sent a chill through much of the world on Friday, November 26th, as nations raced to halt air travel, markets fell sharply and scientists held emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown.
A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the delta variant. The WHO suggested the variant could pose greater risks than delta, which is the world’s most prevalent variant and has fueled relentless waves of infection on every continent.
Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared to other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.
In response, the United States and Canada joined the European Union and several other countries in instituting travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa.
The White House said the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday. It did not give details except to say the restrictions will not apply to returning U.S. citizens or permanent residents, who will continue to be required to test negative before their travel.
Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa was better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.
“We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.
There was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease. As with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, South African experts said. The WHO panel drew from the Greek alphabet in naming the variant omicron, as it has done with earlier, major variants of the virus.
San Miguel Times