BRUSSELS – The discovery of a new variant of coronavirus It sent chills across much of the world on Friday, causing several nations to rush to restrict air travel, markets to plummet and scientists to hold emergency meetings to weigh the exact risks, which were largely unknown.
The World Health Organization on Friday classified the new variant of COVID-19 as a highly communicable and worrying virus. The WHO called it “Omicron”.
Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any disproportionate reaction before the variant that originated in southern Africa is better understood, but a nervous world feared the worst nearly two years after COVID-19 emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.
MARKETS COLLAPSED AND FLIGHTS RESTRICTED ORDERED
British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the new version may be more transmissible than the delta variant and make the vaccines less effective. “We must act quickly and as soon as possible,” said Javid.
There was no immediate indication whether the variant causes a more serious illness. As with other variants, some infected people show no symptoms, South African experts said.
The European Union imposed a temporary ban on flights from southern Africa, while stocks plummeted in Asia, Europe and the United States.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 1,000 points and the S&P 500 was down 2.3%. The price of oil plummeted almost 12%.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that causes us even more problems,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, reported in a statement that she proposed “in close coordination with the member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region.”
It was in South Africa where there is concern. To see more from Telemundo, visit https://www.nbc.com/networks/telemundo
He said the flights “should be suspended until we have a clear understanding of the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from this region must respect strict quarantine rules.”
Von der Leyen insisted on extreme caution, warning that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more worrisome variants of the virus that could spread around the world in a few months.”
Scientists say that the new variant detected in South Africa is concerning because of its high number of mutations and its rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the most populous province in that country.
Additionally, the CDC made recommendations not to travel to countries where cases have risen.
According to Berlin, von der Leyen’s proposal could go into effect on Friday night.
Spahn also said that airlines from South Africa will only be able to carry German citizens, and passengers will have to go through a 14-day quarantine, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Belgium became the first EU country to announce a case of the variant.
“It is a suspicious variant,” said Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. “We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant.”
The drugmaker asked the FDA to authorize the emergency use of its pill.
It has not yet been detected in the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s leading infectious disease expert.
Overseas, the variant “appears to be spreading at a reasonably fast rate,” he told CNN. And while it may be more transmissible and vaccine resistant than other variants, “we don’t know for sure at this point,” Fauci added.
Germany its daily record of infections in recent days and on Thursday it exceeded the barrier of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
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In Italy, the Health Ministry announced measures to veto entry into the country of anyone who has been to seven southern African nations – South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland – in the past 14 days. And the Netherlands is studying similar rules.
“These nations are considered high-risk areas. This means quarantine and double tests for those who travel from those countries ”, affirmed the Dutch Minister of Health, Hugo De Jonge.
For its part, the Israeli Ministry of Health announced the first case of the new variant in the country in a traveler who returned from Malawi. That person, and two other suspected cases, were isolated. All three were vaccinated, but their exact vaccination status is under investigation.
The fourth wave of the pandemic is especially hitting the 27-nation bloc, where governments are rushing to tighten restrictions to contain contagions. The flight ban proposal follows a similar move by Britain on the eve.
London announced that it would veto flights from South Africa and five other nations in southern contain from noon on Friday, and that anyone who has recently entered the country from any of those destinations will be asked to pass a COVID-19 screening test. .
The coronavirus evolves as it spreads, and many of the newer variants, including those with worrisome mutations, often just disappear. Scientists monitor possible changes that could be more contagious or deadly, but determining which new versions may have an impact on public health takes time.
The new variant, currently identified as B.1.1.529, was also detected in Botswana and Hong Kong in travelers from South Africa, it added.
The technical working group of the World Health Organization (WHO) met on Friday to evaluate this new version of the virus and could decide to baptize it with a letter of the Greek alphabet.
According to WHO data, in the last week, coronavirus infections increased by 11% in Europe, which is the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to spread.
The director of the United Nations Health Agency for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that if urgent measures are not taken the region could register 700,000 more deaths before spring.
The EU created its emergency mechanism to deal with problems of this kind.