New COVID-19 variant Omicron triggers global alarm, market sell-off

New COVID-19 variant Omicron triggers global alarm, market sell-off


27/11/2021 2:26:00 AM

New COVID-19 variant Omicron triggers global alarm, market sell-off

WASHINGTON: The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron triggered global alarm on Friday (Nov 26) as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) sai

But it could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant's mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth variant of concern designated by the WHO.The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different than the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on, the UK Health Security Agency said, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

Scientists issued similar warnings."This new variant of the COVID-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date," said Lawrence Young, a virologist at Britain's University of Warwick.

"Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we've seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection."Those worries pummelled financial markets, especially stocks of airlines and others in the travel sector, and oil, which tumbled by about US$10 a barrel.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.5 per cent, its worst day since late October 2020, and European stocks had their worst day in 17 months.Cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line plunged more than 10per cent each, while shares in United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines slumped almost as much.

"MOST SIGNIFICANT VARIANT"Several other countries including India, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates also toughened travel curbs.In Geneva the WHO - whose experts on Friday discussed the risks that the variant, called B.1.1.529, presents - had earlier warned against travel curbs for now.

"It's really important that there are no knee-jerk responses here," said the WHO's emergencies director Mike Ryan, praising South Africa's public health institutions for picking up the new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

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Richard Lessells, a South Africa-based infectious disease expert, also expressed frustration at travel bans, saying the focus should be on getting more people vaccinated in places that have struggled to access sufficient shots."This is why we talked about the risk of vaccine apartheid. This virus can evolve in the absence of adequate levels of vaccination," he told Reuters.

Less than 7per cent of people in low-income countries have received their first COVID-19 shot, according to medical and human rights groups. Meanwhile, many developed nations are giving third-dose boosters.TOO LATE FOR TRAVEL CURBS?The coronavirus has swept the world in the two years since it was first identified in central China, infecting 260 million people and killing 5.4 million.

One epidemiologist in Hong Kong said it may be too late to tighten travel curbs against the latest variant."Most likely this virus is already in other places. And so if we shut the door now, it's going to be probably too late," said Ben Cowling of the University of Hong Kong.

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Brazilian health regulator Anvisa recommended that travel be restricted from some African countries, but President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to dismiss such measures.Bolsonaro has been widely criticised by public health experts for his management of the pandemic, railing against lockdowns and choosing not to get vaccinated. Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll from the virus, behind only the United States.

Discovery of the new variant comes as Europe and the United States enter winter, with more people gathering indoors in the run-up to Christmas, providing a breeding ground for infection.Friday also marked the start of the holiday shopping period in the United States, but stores were less crowded than in years past.

Realtor Kelsey Hupp, 36, was at the Macy's department store in downtown Chicago on Black Friday.

Read more: CNA »

France plans new COVID measures but wants to avoid new lockdownPARIS (Reuters) -France will announce new COVID-19 containment measures on Thursday as infection rates surge nationwide, but does not plan a new lockdown like some other European Union countries. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government wants to avoid major curbs on public life, preferring stricter social distancing, speeding up its vaccination booster campaign and tightening rules on using health passes. 'We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible,' Attal told a news conference.

WHO cautions against travel curbs over new Covid-19 variantWho trust WHO. Remember WHO was late to call Covid19 a pandemic? Right …let’s all stand by and watch a repeat of early 2020 shall we? Shall we wait till after China’s olympics starting in 8 weeks 😏 WHO DrTedros Any African countries going to winter 2022? Please give your support and participation to it

1,275 new COVID cases, 3 more deaths in SingaporeThe 679th to 681st fatalities here were aged between 69 and 74. All had various underlying medical conditions.

Singapore reports 2,079 new COVID-19 cases and 6 deaths; ICU utilisation rate rises slightlySINGAPORE: Singapore reported 2,079 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths from complications due to the coronavirus as of noon on Wednesday (Nov 24). The fatalities were aged between 60 and 83. All of them, except for an unvaccinated case, had various underlying medical conditions. The Ministry of Health

WHO says new COVID-19 variant is of 'concern', names it OmicronWASHINGTON: The discovery of a new coronavirus variant triggered global alarm on Friday (Nov 26) as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year. The United States will restrict travel from South Afr 有新名字了

UK raises alarm over new COVID-19 variant which could beat vaccinesLONDON: Britain on Thursday (Nov 25) said it was concerned by a newly identified coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa that might make vaccines less effective, and slapped travel restricti Why do governments allow the same vaccines to be used on people without improving the formula? Now I really fear big pharma.