BRUSSELS (AP) — Taking an act-now-ask-questions-later strategy, international locations all over the world slammed their doorways shut once more to attempt to preserve the brand new omicron variant at bay Monday as extra circumstances of the mutant coronavirus emerged and scientists raced to determine simply how harmful it may be.
Japan introduced it will bar entry of all overseas guests, becoming a member of Israel in doing so simply days after the variant was recognized by researchers in South Africa. Morocco banned all incoming flights. Different international locations, together with the U.S. and European Union members, have moved to ban vacationers arriving from southern Africa.
Vacationers contaminated with the brand new model have turned up in a widening circle of nations over the previous few days, together with now Spain, and circumstances in Portugal and Scotland have raised fears that the variant could already be spreading regionally.
“Many people would possibly suppose we’re executed with COVID-19. It’s not executed with us,” warned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Well being Group.
Days after the variant despatched a shudder by way of the monetary world practically two years into the pandemic that has killed over 5 million folks, markets had combined reactions Monday, with European shares and oil costs rebounding and Wall Road opening larger, whereas Asian markets fell additional.
U.S. President Joe Biden known as the omicron variant a trigger for concern however “not a trigger for panic.” He stated he isn’t contemplating any widespread U.S. lockdown and as an alternative urged vaccinations and mask-wearing.
The infections have underscored the issue in preserving the virus in examine in a globalized world of jet journey and open borders. But, many international locations are attempting to do exactly that, in opposition to the urging of the WHO, which famous that border closings usually have restricted impact and might wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods.
Some argued that such restrictions might present worthwhile time to research the brand new variant. Little is thought about it, together with whether or not it’s extra contagious, extra prone to trigger critical sickness or extra capable of evade vaccines.
READ MORE: South African scientists brace for wave propelled by omicron
Whereas the preliminary world response to COVID-19 was criticized as gradual and haphazard, the response to the brand new variant got here rapidly.
“This time the world confirmed it’s studying,” stated EU Fee President Ursula von der Leyen, singling out South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for reward. “South Africa’s analytic work and transparency and sharing its outcomes was indispensable in permitting a swift world response. It little question saved many lives.”
Late final week, von der Leyen efficiently pushed the 27-nation EU to comply with ban flights from seven southern African nations, much like what many different international locations are doing.
Circumstances had already been reported in EU nations Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands earlier than Portuguese authorities recognized 13 omicron infections amongst members of the Belenenses skilled soccer staff. Authorities reported one member had not too long ago traveled to South Africa. A recreation over the weekend had be deserted at halftime for lack of gamers.
Spain additionally reported its first confirmed case of the variant. It was detected in a traveler who returned Sunday from South Africa after making a stopover in Amsterdam, certainly one of Madrid’s main public hospitals tweeted.
And after Scotland reported its first six circumstances, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that “there would possibly already be some neighborhood transmission of this variant.”
Taking no probabilities, Japan, which has but to detect any omicron circumstances, reimposed border controls that it had eased earlier this month.
“We’re taking the step as an emergency precaution to forestall a worst-case state of affairs in Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated. The brand new measures start Tuesday.
Israel likewise determined to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco stated it will droop all incoming flights for 2 weeks beginning Monday.
And Britain expanded its COVID-19 booster program to everybody 18 and older, making thousands and thousands extra folks eligible. Up till now, booster photographs have been accessible solely to these 40 and over and other people notably weak to the virus. The U.Okay. has reported a couple of dozen omicron circumstances.
Regardless of the worldwide fear, scientists cautioned that it’s nonetheless unclear whether or not omicron is extra alarming than different variations.
Up to now, docs in South Africa are reporting sufferers are struggling principally gentle signs, however they warn that it’s nonetheless early. Additionally, a lot of the new circumstances are in folks of their 20s and 30s, who usually don’t get as sick from COVID-19 as older sufferers.
“We’ve seen a pointy improve in circumstances for the previous 10 days. Up to now they’ve principally been very gentle circumstances, with sufferers having flu-like signs: dry coughs, fever, evening sweats, a whole lot of physique pains,” stated Dr. Unben Pillay, a basic practitioner in Gauteng province, the place 81% of the brand new circumstances have been reported.
The variant has offered additional proof of what consultants have lengthy been saying: that no continent can be protected till the entire globe has been sufficiently vaccinated. The extra the virus is allowed to unfold, the extra alternatives it has to mutate.
“The emergence of the omicron variant has fulfilled, in a exact manner, the predictions of the scientists who warned that the elevated transmission of the virus in areas with restricted entry to vaccine would velocity its evolution,” stated Dr. Richard Hatchett, head of CEPI, one of many founders of the U.N.-backed world vaccine sharing initiative COVAX.
In some components of the world, authorities are shifting in the wrong way.
In Malaysia, officers went forward with the partial reopening of a bridge connecting it to Singapore. And New Zealand introduced it would press forward with plans to reopen internally after months of shutdown, although additionally it is proscribing journey from 9 southern African nations.
“We’ve come by way of the previous two years of COVID in higher form than practically anyplace on this planet,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated, pointing to low demise charges, a rising financial system and excessive vaccination charges.
Related Press journalists from all over the world contributed to this report.