New COVID variant threat causes worldwide scramble

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BRUSSELS – Nearly 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the satellite is racing to incorporate a caller coronavirus variant perchance much unsafe than the 1 that has fueled relentless waves of corruption connected astir each continent.

A World Health Organization sheet named the variant “omicron” and classified it arsenic a highly transmissible microorganism of concern, the aforesaid class that includes the predominant delta variant, which is inactive a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and decease successful Europe and parts of the United States.

“It seems to dispersed rapidly,” U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday of the caller variant, lone a time aft celebrating the resumption of Thanksgiving gatherings for millions of American families and the consciousness that mean beingness was coming backmost astatine slightest for the vaccinated. In announcing caller question restrictions, helium told reporters, “I’ve decided that we’re going to beryllium cautious.”


Omicron's existent risks are not understood. But aboriginal grounds suggests it carries an accrued hazard of reinfection compared with different highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means radical who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could beryllium taxable to catching it again. It could instrumentality weeks to cognize if existent vaccines are little effectual against it.

In effect to the variant's find successful confederate Africa, the United States, Canada, Russia and a big of different countries joined the European Union successful restricting question for visitors from that region, wherever the variant brought connected a caller surge of infections.

The White House said the U.S. volition restrict question from South Africa and 7 different countries successful the portion opening Monday. Biden issued a declaration aboriginal Friday making the question prohibition official, with exceptions for U.S. citizens and imperishable residents and for respective different categories, including spouses and different adjacent family.


Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against immoderate overreaction earlier the variant was thoroughly studied. But a jittery satellite feared the worst aft the tenacious microorganism triggered a pandemic that has killed much than 5 cardinal radical astir the globe.

“We indispensable determination rapidly and astatine the earliest imaginable moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.

Omicron has present been seen successful travelers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, arsenic good arsenic successful confederate Africa.

There was nary contiguous denotation whether the variant causes much terrible disease. As with different variants, immoderate infected radical show nary symptoms, South African experts said. The WHO sheet drew from the Greek alphabet successful naming the variant omicron, arsenic it has done with earlier, large variants of the virus.

Even though immoderate of the familial changes look worrisome, it was unclear however overmuch of a nationalist wellness menace it posed. Some erstwhile variants, similar the beta variant, initially acrophobic scientists but did not dispersed precise far.


Fears of much pandemic-induced economical turmoil caused stocks to tumble successful Asia, Europe and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average concisely dropped much than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 scale closed down 2.3%, its worst time since February. The terms of lipid plunged astir 13%.

“The past happening we request is to bring successful a caller variant that volition origin adjacent much problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. Members of the 27-nation EU person experienced a massive spike successful cases recently.

Britain, EU countries and immoderate others introduced their question restrictions Friday, immoderate wrong hours of learning of the variant. Asked wherefore the U.S. was waiting until Monday, Biden said only: "Because that was the proposal coming from my aesculapian team.’’


The White House said authorities agencies needed the clip to enactment with airlines and enactment the question limits into effect.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights volition person to “be suspended until we person a wide knowing astir the information posed by this caller variant, and travelers returning from this portion should respect strict quarantine rules.”

She warned that “mutations could pb to the emergence and dispersed of adjacent much concerning variants of the microorganism that could dispersed worldwide wrong a fewer months."

“It’s a suspicious variant," said Frank Vandenbroucke, wellness curate successful Belgium, which became the archetypal European Union state to denote a lawsuit of the variant. “We don’t cognize if it’s a precise unsafe variant.”

Omicron has yet to beryllium detected successful the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's apical infectious illness expert. Although it whitethorn beryllium much transmissible and resistant to vaccines than different variants, "we don’t cognize that for definite close now,” helium told CNN.


Speaking to reporters extracurricular a bookstore connected Nantucket Island, wherever helium was spending the vacation weekend, Biden said the caller variant was "a large concern” that “should marque clearer than ever wherefore this pandemic volition not extremity until we person planetary vaccinations."

He called anew for unvaccinated Americans to get their wide disposable doses and for governments to waive intelligence spot protections for COVID-19 vaccines truthful they tin beryllium much rapidly manufactured astir the world.

Israel, 1 of the world's astir vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it besides detected its archetypal lawsuit of the caller variant successful a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and 2 different suspected cases were placed successful isolation. Israel said each 3 were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers' nonstop vaccination status.

After a 10-hour overnight trip, passengers aboard KLM Flight 598 from Capetown, South Africa, to Amsterdam were held connected the borderline of the runway Friday greeting astatine Schiphol airdrome for 4 hours pending peculiar testing. Passengers aboard a formation from Johannesburg were besides isolated and tested.


“It’s ridiculous. If we didn’t drawback the dreaded bug before, we're catching it now,” said rider Francesca de’ Medici, a Rome-based creation advisor who was connected the flight.

Some experts said the variant's emergence illustrated however affluent countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Fewer than 6% of radical successful Africa person been afloat immunized against COVID-19, and millions of wellness workers and susceptible populations person yet to person a azygous dose. Those conditions tin velocity up dispersed of the virus, offering much opportunities for it to germinate into a unsafe variant.

“This is 1 of the consequences of the inequity successful vaccine rollouts and wherefore the grabbing of surplus vaccines by richer countries volition inevitably rebound connected america each astatine immoderate point,” said Michael Head, a elder probe chap successful planetary wellness astatine Britain’s University of Southampton. He urged Group of 20 leaders "to spell beyond vague promises and really present connected their commitments to stock doses.”


The caller variant added to capitalist anxiousness that months of advancement containing COVID-19 could beryllium reversed.

“Investors are apt to sprout archetypal and inquire questions aboriginal until much is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of overseas speech broker Oanda.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged immoderate question bans connected countries that reported the caller variant. It said past acquisition shows that specified question bans person “not yielded a meaningful outcome.”

The U.S. restrictions volition use to visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. The White House suggested the restrictions volition reflector an earlier pandemic argumentation that banned introduction of immoderate foreigners who had traveled implicit the erstwhile 2 weeks successful the designated regions.

The U.K. banned flights from South Africa and 5 different confederate African countries and announced that anyone who had precocious arrived from those countries would beryllium asked to instrumentality a coronavirus test.


Canada banned the introduction of each foreigners who person traveled to confederate Africa successful the past 2 weeks.

The Japanese authorities announced that Japanese nationals traveling from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho volition person to quarantine astatine government-dedicated accommodations for 10 days and instrumentality 3 COVID-19 tests during that time. Japan has not yet opened up to overseas nationals. Russia announced question restrictions effectual Sunday.


Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lorne Cook successful Brussels; Colleen Barry successful Milan; Pan Pylas successful London; Jamey Keaten successful Geneva; Mike Corder successful The Hague, Netherlands; Dave McHugh successful Frankfurt, Germany; Carley Petesch successful Dakar, Senegal; Andrew Meldrum successful Johannesburg; Frank Jordans successful Berlin; and Darlene Superville successful Nantucket, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten oregon redistributed without permission.

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