The coronavirus has served up the holiday gift that no one asked for: a new variant of concern, named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa earlier this month, and very little is known about the variant so far.
South Africa, the country that initially flagged Omicron to WHO this week, has experienced a surge of new cases and the virus has spilled across international borders to places such as Hong Kong, Belgium, Israel and the United Kingdom. So far, there are no confirmed cases in the United States.
Several nations are not selectively shutting down travel to prevent further spread. As of today, the United States has restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries.
Today, President Biden delivered remarks to provide an update on the variant from the White House. “This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said. “We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day, and we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
Much is still unknown about the transmissibility of the new variant and how effective vaccines will be in protecting Americans against it.
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