Covid updates: news summary for 27 November
- World Health Organization (WHO) raises Omicron to Variant of Concern
- In response to the WHO announcement, the Biden administration has announced a travel ban from eight African countries
- Most public health experts believe Omicron is already circulating in the United States
- Markets respond to concerns over Omicron, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping over 900 points.
What countries have announced travel restrictions?
- Australia | South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique
- Canada | South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique
Italy | South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini
- United States | Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe
Omicron has arrived in Australia.
Two overseas passengers in Sydney have been confirmed to have the Omicron variant.
The UK has imposed more restrictions in the face of the new variant.
These include the use of masks, a 10-day quarantine for those who come in contact with people who are positive for Omicron, and offering booster shots to the fully-vaccinated.
The ex-head of the UK's vaccine taskforce talks about Boris Johnson's inaction on his anti-covid plan.
Clive Dix says he has seen no action on his proposals to the government on how to handle an emergent virus.
How will anti-covid pills respond to the new Omicron variant?
An infectious disease specialist seeks to clear some doubts.
Scientists are striving to find out more about the Omicron variant.
The appearance of the new strain shows that the pandemic is not about to end anytime soon. World health officials are reminding people to take precautions against the virus.
Manufacturers are rushing to prepare a vaccine against the Omicron variant.
Pharmaceutical companies have expressed confidence that they will be able to produce a vaccine tailor-made to fight the new variant very quickly.
Israel closes its borders to all foreigners
Israel is the first country to announce that it will close its borders to all foreigners for two weeks after the Omicron variant is discovered there.
Renewed push for intellectual property waivers
Several organizations have put renewed pressure on President Biden to push forward with waiving intellectual property rules for covid vaccines.
New York declares state of emergency
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has prompted New York Governor Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency as a "precautionary measure".
Vice President Harris doesn't rule out travel restrictions
Vice President Kamala Harris encourages everyone to be vaccinated, but refuses to rule out future travel restrictions.
Omicron likely to be in Holland
Two airplanes full of passengers from South Africa were tested upon arrival in Amsterdam and of the 200 passengers aboard, 61 tested positive for covid. They were quarantined in a hotel near the airport and experts now say that the Omicron variant is very likely to be present.
Unusual but mild symptoms
South African doctor says that Omicron variant patients presented with unusual but mild symptoms.
Latest European cases confirmed
Italy and Germany the latest European countries to confirm the Omicron variant
The West berated for hoarding vaccines
South African scientists lay the blame for the seemingly unending variants in coronavirus squarely on the Western world's hoarding of vaccines. Fewer than 1% of the population in many developing nations have had any access to vaccination at all.
Boris Johnson announces new rules for travellers arriving in UK
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that travellers arriving in England must now take a PCR test on their second day in the country, and will have to self-isolate until they receive confirmation of a negative test result.
Johnson also revealed that suspected contacts of Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days.
The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have said they will be applying Johnson's new rules, which will be reviewed in three weeks.
The Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on 24 November, and has since been identified in other countries. The organization announced Friday that it would classify Omicron as a "Variant of Concern."
Swiftly, President Biden announced that his administration would be implementing a travel ban from seven African countries in light of the news from the World Health Organization. The President described the move as "precautionary," saying it would take effect on 29 November.
These countries are included in the travel ban.
Two Omicron variant cases detected in Britain
Two linked cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected in Britain connected to travel to southern Africa, health minister Sajid Javid said on Saturday.
"Late last night I was contacted by the UK Health Security Agency. I was informed that they have detected two cases of this new variant, Omicron, in the United Kingdom. One in Chelmsford, the other in Nottingham," he said in a broadcast clip.
The two individuals and all members of their households are being re-tested and told to self-isolate while further testing and contact tracing is done, the health ministry said. England will also add Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola to its travel 'red list' from 0400 GMT on Sunday, meaning British and Irish residents who arrive in the country must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Non-residents will be refused entry.
That list already contained Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty will hold a news conference later on Saturday "to set out further measures", Javid said.
Mauritius to stop flights from South Africa from Sunday
Mauritius will suspend all commercial passenger flights from South Africa from Sunday 28 November due to the new coronavirus variant Omicron, its foreign affairs ministry said on Saturday.
A ministry statement also said any passengers who have been physically present in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe will be denied entry or transit through Mauritius. South African Airways, which restarted operations in September, said on Twitter it will stop flights to Mauritius as a result of the suspension. Mauritius, whose economy largely relies on tourism, has 20,913 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 240 deaths reported since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters tally.
NY declares state of emergency in preparation for Omicron
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency to prepare for a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.
Hochul’s declaration on Friday is one of the first emergency steps taken by a state in the US against the new variant, known as Omicron, whose discovery was announced Thursday.
South Africa has complained it is being “punished” for detecting the Omicron variant
The foreign ministry made the statement as countries around the world rushed to impose travel bans from southern African countries.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said.
The bans on flights was said to be “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”.
Some experts believe that the variant originated in South Africa and have reported that those most impacted by it have been young unvaccinated people. Even those who had been previously infected faced a risk from this new variant. However, the level of infection among those who were vaccinated is unknown.
The country most impacted by Omicron has been South Africa, which has a relatively low vaccination rate, making it easy for the virus to move through the population at a more rapid pace.
MSNBC has reported that the variant has already been detected in Belgium, Israel, and Hong Kong.
EU joins US in closing borders with affected countries
The European Union member states will enact travel restrictions in light of the World Health Organizations classification of the Omicron covid-19 variant as a "Variant of Concern."
Italy, Germany, and France are already working to implement their own restrictions. The Italian health minister Roberto Speranza, said that travelers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini will be barred.
Biden wants vaccine waivers to boost global immunity
President Joe Biden on Friday called on nations expected to meet at the World Trade Organization next week to agree to waive intellectual property protections for covid-19 vaccines in the wake of the identification of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa.
What the emergence of Omicron reminds us is that until vaccines are distributed globally we are all at risk. Those in countries that have been priced out of the vaccine market are left extremely vulnerable.
Early this year as the first doses of covid-19 vaccines began to be administered, the World Health Organization (WHO) set a target of having at least forty percent of the population in every country vaccinated by the end of the year.
On 22 October, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that more than eighty-two countries were not on track to meet this goal. Days later, the WHO reported that seventy percent of high-income countries had surpassed the forty-percent marker.
Well certainly there is a new variant that is now in South Africa in the Gauteng Province, that has some mutations that are raising some concern, particularly with regard to possibly transmissibility increase and possibly evasion of immune response. We don’t know that for sure right now, this is really something that’s in motion and we just arranged right now, a discussion between our scientists and the South African scientists a little bit later in the morning, to really get the facts because you’re hearing a lot of things back and forth. We want to find out scientist to scientist exactly what is going on,
Take Omicron seriously, says Fauci
Lester Holt interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci about the new coronavirus variant which led President Biden to impose travel restrictions for South Africa, and seven other countries.
This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.
Hello and Welcome to our live feed on the Omicron covid-19 variant. The World Health Organization has announced that it will classify Omicron as a Variant of Concern as it drives an alarming surge in cases in South Africa.
Many experts believe the strain is already spreading in the United States.
We will be bringing you live updates on what we know about the variant so far including if it is more transmissible, new symptoms, as well as information about the newly announced travel ban from seven African countries to the US which will go into effect on 29 November.