From the United States to Germany and from Saudi Arabia to Australia, the omicron variant of Covid-19 has spread to dozens of countries around the world.
The World Health Organization has called omicron, which was first detected by South African scientists, as a “variant of concern” because of a large number of mutations that could make the variant more contagious.
Much remains unknown about the variant, originally called B.1.1.529. Scientists are studying whether it is more transmissible, causes more serious illness and death, and whether tests, treatments and vaccines are effective against it.
Yet the emergence of the omicron variant has led some countries to tighten border restrictions and raised new concerns about the health of the global economy. Meanwhile, weakening investor sentiment rocked global markets.
Moody’s rating agency said the omicron variant created new uncertainty just as many countries were moving towards a semblance of post-pandemic normalcy.
“Omicron’s discovery underscores our view that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat to health, as well as the primary source of uncertainty for the global economy and a driver of financial market volatility,” Moody’s said in a report released Tuesday.
The Covid pandemic – which began early last year – has seen more than 263 million reported infections worldwide and more than 5.2 million known deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University Wednesday.
More than 8 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered, according to data from Hopkins. But many low-income countries – especially those in Africa – have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, according to statistics from the online repository Our World in Data.