New COVID-19 variant restricts travel to the U.S.
GENEVA, Switzerland (KLKN) – A new COVID-19 variant called Omicron was reported to the World Health Organization on November 24th and has been labeled as a variant of concern, or VOC. The SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, or Omicron, was reported in South Africa correlating with a recent dramatic spike in cases.
Following approximately a dozen other countries, President Joe Biden will be restricting travel to the US from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi starting on Monday, according to senior administration officials.
The World Health Organization labeled Omicron as a variant of concern due to its large number of mutations, some of which have sparked health officials’ concern. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variants and potential resistance to vaccination.
Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant; however, several labs have indicated that one PCR test is not able to detect one of the three genes tested for COVID effectively proving the presence of Omicron. Using this approach, Omicron has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.
The World Health Organization encourages individuals to take the appropriate measures to reduce their risk of infection such as: wearing fitted masks, practicing hand hygiene, physically distance, improving the ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding overcrowding, and getting vaccinated/maintaining booster shots.