World Reacts to New COVID Variant
November 29, 2021
U.S. President Joe Biden announced the United States will restrict
travel from South Africa and seven other African countries, effective
Any non-U.S. citizen who has been in one of the eight nations during the
14 days before coming to the United States will be denied entry. The
restrictions do not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent
residents; however, they must test negative before traveling, as must
all international travelers.
Biden made the announcement Friday after consulting with Dr. Anthony
Fauci, his chief medical adviser. Besides South Africa, the other
countries are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique
Biden took the action after the World Health Organization (WHO)
designated the new variant, B.1.1.529, a variant of concern and dubbed
In his announcement, Biden said he had two important messages for the
American people: For those fully vaccinated, "get a booster shot as soon
as you are eligible." And "for those not yet fully vaccinated, get
What is omicron?
Omicron is the fifth WHO-designated variant of concern. It was first
detected in recent weeks in South Africa, which has seen an exponential
rise in COVID-19 cases.
There are about 30 mutations on the virus' spike protein, and scientists
worry that some of them could make the virus easier to transmit. But
scientists do not yet know whether omicron is in fact more transmissible
about the new variant sent financial markets reeling Friday and pushed
the price of oil down by $10 a barrel.
The WHO said understanding the variant could take weeks and cautioned
against travel restrictions. Its director of emergencies, Mike Ryan,
urged "no knee-jerk responses."
Ryan's advice went unheeded as travel restrictions were immediately
reinstated in places including Britain, the European Union, Canada and
the U.S. Other countries, such as India, Japan, Israel, Turkey,
Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates enacted some form of travel
curbs, Reuters reported.
Some epidemiologists warned that they were likely too late. Omicron has
already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Dozens of
passengers disembarking in the Netherlands from flights from South
Africa initially tested positive for the coronavirus.