New COVID Variant of ‘Concern’ Drives U.S. Travel Bans

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Nov. 26, 2021 -- The World Health Organization connected Friday classified a caller COVID-19 variant from South Africa arsenic a “variant of concern,” which means it could beryllium much contagious, origin much terrible illness and trim the efficacy of vaccines and treatments.

The WHO convened an autarkic radical of experts connected Friday to measure the caller variant based connected the accelerated summation successful COVID-19 infections successful South Africa this week. Known scientifically arsenic B.1.1.529, the variant was named Omicron.

“Omicron has immoderate concerning properties. This variant has a ample fig of mutations, and immoderate of these mutations person immoderate worrying characteristics,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s method pb connected the coronavirus pandemic, said successful a video statement.

“Preliminary grounds suggests an accrued hazard of reinfection with this variant, arsenic compared to different [variants of concern],” the WHO said successful a statement. “The fig of cases of this variant appears to beryllium expanding successful astir each provinces successful South Africa.”

In response, the White House announced caller question restrictions against flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Foreign nationals from those countries volition beryllium prohibited from entering the United States. .

“These caller restrictions volition instrumentality effect connected November 29,” President Joe Biden said successful a statement.” As we determination forward, we volition proceed to beryllium guided by what the subject and my aesculapian squad advises.”

The U.S. hasn’t detected immoderate cases of the caller variant yet, Anthony Fauci, MD, manager of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN

“Right now, we’re getting the worldly unneurotic with our South African colleagues to get to a concern wherever you could really straight trial it,” Fauci said. “So, close present you’re talking astir … a reddish emblem that this mightiness beryllium an contented — but we don’t know.”

Scientists successful South Africa began tracking the variant this week aft a leap successful COVID-19 cases and reported the variant to the WHO connected Wednesday. The archetypal known confirmed corruption was from a illustration collected connected Nov. 9, the WHO said.

Several labs person recovered that 1 wide utilized trial could beryllium a reliable mode to observe the caller variant. The WHO’s microorganism improvement advisory radical has started “a fig of studies” to measure Omicron and volition denote caller findings arsenic needed, Van Kerkhove said Friday.

Based connected the grounds truthful far, the WHO advised countries to heighten their surveillance and genomic sequencing efforts to amended recognize the variant. The WHO besides requested that countries taxable genomic sequences to nationalist databases, specified arsenic GISAID. On Friday, 66 sequences of the B.1.1.529 variant had been reported to GISAID, including 58 successful South Africa, six successful Botswana and 2 successful Hong Kong.

The WHO besides asked countries to behaviour tract investigations and laboratory analyses astir the severity of the variant, arsenic good arsenic immune responses, antibody neutralization and effectiveness of nationalist wellness and societal measures.

“Individuals are reminded to instrumentality measures to trim their hazard of COVID-19, including proven nationalist wellness and societal measures specified arsenic wearing well-fitting masks, manus hygiene, carnal distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces and getting vaccinated,” the WHO said.

Biden called connected different nations to summation vaccine donations to poorer nations.

“The quality astir this caller variant should marque clearer than ever wherefore this pandemic volition not extremity until we person planetary vaccinations,” Biden said. “The United States has already donated much vaccines to different countries than each different state combined. It is clip for different countries to lucifer America’s velocity and generosity.”

Israel imposed a question prohibition covering astir of Africa aft discovering its archetypal lawsuit successful idiosyncratic who had precocious traveled from Malawi. A increasing database of countries halted oregon restricted flights, including Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore, The New York Times reported.

“We are presently astatine the threshold of an exigency situation,” Naftali Bennett, the premier curate of Israel, said in a statement.

“I inquire everyone to beryllium prepared and to afloat articulation successful the enactment astir the clock,” helium said.

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