The omicron variant first discovered in South Africa last week is likely to spread rapidly around the world and could have “serious consequences,” the World Health Organization warned on Monday.
“There could be future outbreaks of COVID-19, which could have serious consequences depending on a number of factors, including where the outbreaks may take place,” the WHO said in a brief technical. “The overall overall risk from (omicron variant) is rated as very high.”
The WHO said there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron differ from those associated with other variants. No deaths linked to the omicron variant have been reported, the WHO added. However, he said preliminary evidence raises the possibility that the variant has mutations that could help it both evade an immune system response and make it more transmissible.
President Joe Biden addressed the latest threat on Monday, once again urging Americans to get vaccinated, get vaccinated and wear masks in public places.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said. “We have more tools to combat the variant than we have ever had before.”
The United States will need about two weeks to obtain more definitive information on the transmissibility and severity of the omicron variant, said Dr Anthony Fauci.
The variant has already been identified in countries around the world, including France, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. Fauci told Biden he believes “existing vaccines are likely to provide some degree of protection against severe cases of COVID.”
Also in the news:
► Citing the emergence of the omicron variant, the CDC said on Monday that “anyone aged 18 and over should receive a COVID vaccine booster if it has been at least six months since they completed the Pfizer or Moderna or two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
►Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was placed on NFL COVID-19 protocol on Monday and will miss Thursday night’s game in New Orleans after testing positive.
►The UK will offer booster shots of the COVID vaccine to all adults in a bid to prevent a wave of infections caused by the omicron variant.
► “Vaccine” is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2021: “The greatest scientific story of our time has quickly become the biggest debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine.”
►Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, said it was “unacceptable” for some countries to vaccinate groups at very low risk of severe disease and to give boosters to healthy adults when only 1 in every 4 African health workers have been vaccinated.
??Numbers of the day: The United States has recorded more than 48 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 776,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: Over 261 million cases and nearly 5.1 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans, or about 59.1% of the population, are fully immunized, according to the CDC.
??What we read: Omicron, how do you pronounce it? The name of the last variant comes from the Greek alphabet. Here is what it means.
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Judge suspends vaccination mandate for healthcare workers in 10 states
A Missouri federal judge blocked the Biden administration from imposing a COVID vaccine mandate on healthcare workers in 10 states, saying there was no “rational connection between the facts uncovered and the choice made” .
U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp also said the requirements issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid had not obtained congressional approval, which he said was necessary and not subject to the usual time frame. public comment.
“Really, the impact of this mandate goes way beyond COVID,” Schelp wrote. “CMS seeks to move beyond an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to dictate federally the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action calls into question traditional notions of federalism. “
In addition to Missouri, the judge’s ruling applies to Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. All went on to say that the vaccination mandate was unconstitutional.
Biden says vaccines, not blockages, are the right tool against omicron variant
President Joe Biden has vowed that there will be no new lockdowns imposed in response to the new variant of the coronavirus – named omicron – instead encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors in places as the best tools to fight COVID-19.
“The best protection against this variant or any of the variants on the market… is to get fully vaccinated and receive a booster,” Biden said during a White House press briefing on Monday. “Most Americans are fully immunized but not yet boosted.”
In a meeting with the COVID-19 response team on Sunday, Presidential Advisor Dr Anthony Fauci told Biden that existing vaccines – especially those supplemented with booster shots – would offer protection against the severe cases of COVID-19.
Biden plans to present a “detailed strategy” on Thursday on how the administration will tackle COVID-19 over the next winter.
“Not with closures or locks,” he said. “But with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.” He also urged Americans to wear masks when indoors in public places. Read more here.
Much of omicron remains a mystery, but vaccination numbers to help
Much remains unknown about omicron, the worrying new variant whose presence is increasingly identified in countries around the world. Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal are among the countries that have recently detected cases.
The extent of omicron transmissibility – is it more or less contagious than the highly infectious delta variant? – its ability to escape vaccine protection and the severity of the disease it causes remain a mystery.
COVID-19 vaccines are likely to provide a measure of protection, scientists believe, but how much is unclear. Here is what we know about omicron.
Biden says travel restrictions give time to fight omicron variant
WHO urged countries not to impose a flight ban on Southern African countries, saying in a statement that “South Africa should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalized “.
The United States, however, began restricting travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi on Monday. Biden said the restrictions should allow time for public health officials to learn more about omicron – and more Americans to get vaccinated and get boosters.
“Sooner or later we’ll see cases of this new variant in the United States,” Biden admitted.
WHO meets for special session on new outbreak rules
The WHO World Health Assembly on Monday opened a special session to discuss a new global treaty to respond to future pandemics. The special session, just the second in WHO’s history, will last until Wednesday.
The session aims to establish a process for drafting agreements “on pandemic preparedness and response,” according to a press release from the organization. Tedros told the rally that the international response to the pandemic has been slow and uncoordinated.
“The very emergence of Omicron is another reminder that while many of us may think we’re done with COVID-19, it’s not over with us,” Tedros said. “We are in a cycle of panic and neglect. The hard-earned gains could be gone in an instant.”
Omicron variant identified in more countries around the world
Cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged in countries on both sides of the world on Sunday as many governments rushed to close their borders.
Japan has announced that it will suspend the entry of all foreign visitors hours after Israel decides to deny entry to foreigners. Morocco has said it will suspend all inbound flights for two weeks from Monday – amid a growing number of travel restrictions imposed by countries around the world as they scramble to slow the spread of the variant.
Scientists from several places, from Hong Kong to Europe, have confirmed its presence since South Africa announced its presence last week.
“This time the world has shown it is learning,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, targeting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. “South Africa’s analytical work and transparency and the sharing of its findings were essential to enable a rapid global response. It has undoubtedly saved many lives.
Canada’s health minister said the country’s first two cases of omicron were found in Ontario after two people who recently traveled from Nigeria tested positive.
Contribution: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press