WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Asia Free Press): The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron triggered global alarm as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their most significant falls in more than a year, according to media reports.
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes Omicron may spread more swiftly than previous versions of the virus and that preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection, reported Reuters.
Travel restrictions, said epidemiologists, maybe too little, too late to stop the spread of Omicron. First discovered in South Africa, the novel mutations have since been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
“This new variant of the COVID-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the Britain’s University of Warwick.
“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we have seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection,” he added.
There may be weeks before scientists fully comprehend the variant’s mutation and whether the current vaccine or treatment is effective against it—the WHO has recognised Omicron as the fifth variation of concern.
Current immunisations may not be able to protect against this new strain of coronavirus, according to the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), which has raised concerns about how current vaccines would fare.
A senior Biden administration official said that the United States would restrict travel from South Africa and neighbouring countries effective Monday [Nov 29].
Following the announcements by Britain, the European Union, and others, Canada has indicated that it will close its borders to those countries.
These fears shook financial markets, particularly those of airlines and others in the travel industry and oil, which fell by nearly $10 a barrel as a result of these concerns.