Omicron is a new form of Covid-19 originating in South Africa that has been labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
The US joins the UK, European Union, Australia, Canada, Brazil and other countries in imposing travel restrictions in attempts to stop the concerning new Covid-19 strain.
Omicron is a new form of Covid-19 originating in South Africa that has been labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Iran, Japan and Thailand as well as the EU have also introduced travel restrictions of varying degrees.
Mr Biden said in his statement: “As a precautionary measure, until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries.
“As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.”
The travel restrictions will apply to visitors only and do not include US citizens or other permanent residents.
There are currently no cases of the Omicron variant in the US but the virus has already reached Europe.
A traveller from Belgium became the first European with a confirmed case after a visit to Egypt over two weeks prior, raising fears that the virus may have been circulating countries outwith the travel ban for some time.
The Omicron variant has also been detected in Israel, Hong Kong, and South Africa’s neighbour Botswana.
Early research suggests it could cause an increased risk of reinfection, according to the WHO. This would mean that Omicron could cause recoverees of the Covid-19 to become infected again and the effectiveness of vaccines could lessen.
South Africa detected the first case of Omicron (originally identified as B.1.1.529) on 9 November and reported the variant to the WHO on 24 November.
The country has seen three main spikes of Covid-19, most recently with the Delta variant, but the number of new cases suggests that Omicron could cause a further resurgence. The country’s 7-day case average on 26 November was 3,459, compared to 417 a week earlier.
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