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

Nov. 26, 2021 — The World Well being Group on Friday labeled a brand new COVID-19 variant from South Africa as a “variant of concern,” which suggests it may very well be extra contagious, trigger extra extreme illness and scale back the efficacy of vaccines and coverings.

The WHO convened an impartial group of consultants on Friday to evaluate the brand new variant primarily based on the speedy enhance in COVID-19 infections in South Africa this week. Recognized scientifically as B.1.1.529, the variant was named Omicron.

“Omicron has some regarding properties. This variant has numerous mutations, and a few of these mutations have some worrying traits,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the coronavirus pandemic, stated in a video assertion.

“Preliminary proof suggests an elevated threat of reinfection with this variant, as in comparison with different [variants of concern],” the WHO stated in an announcement. “The variety of instances of this variant seems to be rising in nearly all provinces in South Africa.”

In response, the White Home introduced new journey restrictions towards flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Overseas nationals from these international locations can be prohibited from getting into america. .

“These new restrictions will take impact on November 29,” President Joe Biden stated in an announcement.” As we transfer ahead, we are going to proceed to be guided by what the science and my medical crew advises.”

The U.S. hasn’t detected any instances of the brand new variant but, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Ailments, advised CNN

“Proper now, we’re getting the fabric along with our South African colleagues to get to a scenario the place you would really immediately check it,” Fauci stated. “So, proper now you’re speaking about … a crimson flag that this is likely to be a difficulty — however we don’t know.”

Scientists in South Africa started monitoring the variant this week after a soar in COVID-19 instances and reported the variant to the WHO on Wednesday. The primary identified confirmed an infection was from a pattern collected on Nov. 9, the WHO stated.

A number of labs have discovered that one broadly used check may very well be a dependable approach to detect the brand new variant. The WHO’s virus evolution advisory group has began “quite a few research” to guage Omicron and can announce new findings as wanted, Van Kerkhove stated Friday.

Primarily based on the proof thus far, the WHO suggested international locations to boost their surveillance and genomic sequencing efforts to higher perceive the variant. The WHO additionally requested that international locations submit genomic sequences to public databases, resembling GISAID. On Friday, 66 sequences of the B.1.1.529 variant had been reported to GISAID, together with 58 in South Africa, six in Botswana and two in Hong Kong.

The WHO additionally requested international locations to conduct area investigations and lab analyses concerning the severity of the variant, in addition to immune responses, antibody neutralization and effectiveness of public well being and social measures.

“People are reminded to take measures to cut back their threat of COVID-19, together with confirmed public well being and social measures resembling carrying well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, bodily distancing, enhancing air flow of indoor areas, avoiding crowded areas and getting vaccinated,” the WHO stated.

Biden referred to as on different nations to extend vaccine donations to poorer nations.

“The information about this new variant ought to make clearer than ever why this pandemic won’t finish till we have now international vaccinations,” Biden stated. “The US has already donated extra vaccines to different international locations than each different nation mixed. It’s time for different international locations to match America’s pace and generosity.”

Israel imposed a journey ban protecting most of Africa after discovering its first case in somebody who had not too long ago traveled from Malawi. A rising listing of nations halted or restricted flights, together with Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore, The New York Occasions reported.

“We’re at present on the threshold of an emergency scenario,” Naftali Bennett, the prime minister of Israel, stated in an announcement.

“I ask everybody to be ready and to completely be a part of within the work across the clock,” he stated.

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