People queue for COVID tests at the airport in Johannesburg, after a slew of countries announced travel bans following the discovery of the new variant [Jerome Delay/AP Photo]
WHO designates new COVID strain Omicron as ‘variant of concern’
Several countries impose travel restrictions as new variant detected in South Africa raises global alarm.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated anew coronavirus straindetected in South Africa as a “variant of concern”, prompting countries around the world to impose travel restrictions amid fears over its potential spread.
A WHO advisory panel on Friday said early evidence shows thenew B.1.1529 variant, which it dubbed Omicron after a letter in the Greek alphabet, poses an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible strains.
Global authorities reacted with alarm to the emergence of Omicron, which was first found in South Africa and has since been detected in Belgium, Israel, Botswana and Hong Kong.
The European Union and the United Kingdom haveimposed restrictions on travellersfrom several countries in southern Africa as researchers seek to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant, while the United States announced that similar curbs would begin on Monday.