New Omicron Variant is the latest variant discovered in the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the new variant comes just after the Thanksgiving holiday, sending chills through the world. The first case was in South Africa, which resulted in the U.S. halting travel to many African countries. Not to mention, the U.S. market fell drastically, and scientists and world leaders met to determine risks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 index was down 2.3%, on pace for its worst day since February. The price of oil plunged nearly 12%.
The new variant named, Omicron is classified as a highly transmissible virus and is in the same category as the Delta variant. There is also evidence that suggests an increased risk of reinfection. The World Health Organization (WHO) and medical experts warned against overreaction before better understanding the variant. “We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.
As of now, there is no indication that the variant causes more severe disease. Nevertheless, some genetic changes appear problematic, and experts aren’t sure if the Omicron variant would cause a significant health threat. However, as with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, South African experts said. Therefore, even though some genetic changes appear problematic, it was unclear if the new variant would pose a significant public health threat. Some previous variants, like the beta variant, initially concerned scientists but did not spread very far.
Inequity in Vaccine Rollouts
The Omicron variant hasn’t hit the United States, but five cases were discovered in Canada this past weekend. The variant “seems to be spreading at a reasonably rapid rate,” he told Dr. Fauci told CNN. Sadly, the new variant depicts wealthier countries hoarding vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic—less than 6% of fully vaccinated people in Africa. In addition, millions of health workers and vulnerable populations haven’t received a single dose; thus, increasing the opportunity for the variant to evolve.
“This is one of the consequences of the inequity in vaccine rollouts and why the grabbing of surplus vaccines by richer countries will inevitably rebound on us all at some point,” said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Britain’s University of Southampton. He urged 20 leaders “to go beyond vague promises and deliver on their commitments to share doses.”
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged travel bans on countries infected with the new variant. They don’t believe the travel bans have “yielded a meaningful income.” Nevertheless, the European Union imposed a temporary travel ban from southern African countries on Friday, and stocks plummeted in Asia and Europe. Germany discussed enacting a flight ban and only allowing German citizens to come home on flights from South Africa. Other travelers will have to quarantine for 14 days, vaccinated or not. Last Thursday, Germany surpassed 100,000 deaths for COVID-19.
Italy health ministry announced banning entry for anyone who has traveled to the seven southern African nations within the last 14 days. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic planned similar measures. In addition, Japan announced that Japanese nationals who traveled to specific African countries would have to quarantine at government-dedicated accommodations for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on the 3rd, 6th, and 10th days. Furthermore, Japan hasn’t opened back up to foreign nationals.
The South African government said the U.K.’s decision to ban South Africans temporarily seemed rushed. At the same time, the U.S. public health officials were talking Friday with South African colleagues. Coronavirus infections jumped 11% in the past week in Europe, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise. The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that the continent could see an additional 700,000 deaths by the spring without urgent measures.