Ómicron, the new variant of Covid that shakes the world
Upon learning of the emergence of the variant of the virus, the United States, the European Union, and other countries established travel restrictions for visitors from southern African nations.
A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of care, the same category that includes the delta variant. The commission said initial testing indicates an increased risk of reinfection.
In response, the United States, the European Union, and other countries established travel restrictions for visitors from southern African nations.
The White House said the United States would restrict South Africa and seven other countries in the region starting Monday. He did not elaborate, 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 traveling.
Medical experts, including the WHO, called for no overreactions before learning more about the variant that originated in southern Africa. Still, a nervous world feared the worst almost two years after the emergence of COVID-19 and the onset of a pandemic that has caused more than 5 million deaths in the world.
“We must act quickly and as soon as possible,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament.
In principle, there was no indication that the variant causes a more severe illness. As in other variants, some patients are asymptomatic, South African experts said.
The WHO panel relied on the Greek alphabet to name the omicron variant, as done with previous significant virus variants.
Although some genetic alterations are of concern, it was unclear whether the new variant would pose a severe threat to public health. Earlier variants, such as the beta, initially concerned scientists but did not spread too widely.
The European Union, made up of 27 nations, temporarily suspended air travel from southern Africa and share prices fell in the United States, Europe, and Asia. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index fell more than 1,000 points, and the cost of oil plummeted almost 12%.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that causes even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn. E.U. countries have recently experienced an outbreak of cases.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that flights should be “suspended until we clearly understand the danger posed by the new variant, and travelers returning from this region must respect strict quarantine rules.”
Von der Leyen insisted on taking extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more worrisome variants of the virus that could spread around the world in a few months.”
Belgium became the first E.U. country to announce a case of the variant. “It is a suspicious variant,” said Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. “We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant.”
It has not yet been detected in the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s leading infectious disease expert. However, overseas, the variant “appears to be spreading at a reasonably fast rate,” he told CNN. And while it may be more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than other variants, “we don’t know for sure at this point,” Fauci added.
Israel, one of the most vaccinated countries globally, announced on Friday that it also detected its first case of the new variant in a traveler returning from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were isolated. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but authorities were investigating the exact vaccination status of the travelers.
According to the WHO, in the last week, coronavirus infections increased by 11% in Europe.