The emergence of the Omicron variant appears to be the strongest reminder yet that the pandemic is not over
The emergence of the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant feels like a pandemic gut check.
Scientists have long known that the world would see emerging coronavirus variants. Viruses mutate constantly.But when South Africa's health minister announced Thursday the discovery of the B.1.1.529 variant, which appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of the country, it was the strongest reminder yet that the pandemic is not over.Newly discovered Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 is 'red flag' but US needs to learn more, Fauci saysIn the hours following that Thursday announcement, several nations -- including the United States and the United Kingdom -- banned travel from South Africa and surrounding African countries.The new travel restrictions announced by President Joe Biden on Friday will buy the US federal government more time to investigate the new Omicron variant that has emerged in South Africa, officials say. But not much.Read MoreInside the government, it is seen as inevitable that the new variant will appear in the US at some point, but the new restrictions should give federal health agencies and their global counterparts more time to learn about the variant, including the severity of the disease it causes. Officials do not believe, based on current surveillance, that the variant is in the US yet.Officials acted quickly to implement new restrictions. While the emergence of the variant had been flagged in the last several weeks, it was only in recent days that they learned how serious it was.US officials are expected to speak to scientists in South Africa again potentially on Sunday.The growing concernThe World Health Organization quickly convened a group of advisers and designated the B.1.1.529 strain a"variant of concern," giving it the Greek name Omicron. WHO also called on countries to enhance their surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand coronavirus variants.What we know about the Omicron variantVaccine makers were fast to identify the variant as a concern. Moderna said the Omicron variant represents a 'significant potential risk' to its Covid-19 vaccine."The recently described Omicron variant includes mutations seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape. The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity," Moderna said Friday in a news release.Omicron was also quick to make an economic hit. The new Covid variant sent oil plummeting 13% on Friday as investors feared new government restrictions and slower economic growth. US crude finished the day at a two-month low of $68.15 a barrel, down 13.1% from Wednesday's close. It was the worst day for oil since April 27, 2020, when Covid was spreading rapidly in the United States.Now, as scientists work quickly to learn more about the variant, global health officials are urging people to wear masks, avoid crowded places and get vaccinated if they haven't already. Omicron is another example of how Covid-19 is here to stay.'Variants are going to continually be generated by this virus'"We understand that people are concerned. The good thing is that we have monitoring systems around the world to detect these variants very quickly. This variant was detected a few weeks ago, and already scientists are sharing research with us, information with us, so that we can take action," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for Covid-19, said in a video statement Friday."What's really important as an individual is to lower your exposure," Van Kerkhove said."These proven public health measures have never been more important: distancing, wearing of a mask, making sure that it's over your nose and mouth with clean hands, making sure you avoid crowded spaces, be in rooms where there's good ventilation, and when it's your turn, get vaccinated."And as the world learns more about the Omicron variant, current guidance on mitigation measures -- such as wearing masks -- could change.What the end of the Covid-19 pandemic could look likeEven as the pandemic nears its end and the coronavirus becomes endemic -- meaning, it could have a constant presence but not affect an alarmingly large number of people -- it's still likely that new variants will continue to emerge."New variants are going to continually be generated by this virus, most of which will be inconsequential. It will remain an important task, however, to characterize and track new variants to determine their significance," Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, wrote in an email to CNN on Friday."There will never be a time when there is a zero COVID threat as the virus transitions to endemicity," Adalja wrote."Once the virus is tamed — by losing the ability to threaten hospital capacity through high levels of population immunity and treatments — I think public health recommendations will be more relaxed, though some people may voluntarily choose to continue to use them in high risk contexts."Vaccine scientists are already testing OmicronAs we look to what the future might hold, Covid-19 vaccine makers have said that they are prepared to update their coronavirus shots to target newly emerging variants.Scientists at BioNTech have already started investigating the impact the Omicron variant has on its vaccine developed with Pfizer, with data expected within the next couple of weeks."We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations on variant B.1.1.529," BioNTech said in a statement Friday."We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest."Moderna announced in a statement Friday that it is"working rapidly" to test the ability of its current vaccine dose against the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks.If the current vaccine and booster shot are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which Moderna said it is testing.The company is also evaluating two multi-valent booster candidates to see if they provide superior protection against Omicron. Both candidates include some of the viral mutations present in the new variant.Moderna is also evaluating an Omicron-specific booster candidate.Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.
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Keep people in fear and panic, Your narratives are obvious to most. Chage up your wolf cry or people are going to catch on. The flu Jr Sounds like the annual flu. Honest question. What happened to the flu Tell me more lies The fact that this is a variant of a virus that even western countries are beginning to take seriously says something about how scary this virus is.😱😱😱
So now wants to know how Biden can stop the spread of the news Covid variant in the World. Also look again at commercial logo it is exactly the same as OANN Come on people get vaccinated! All you unvaccinated people are causing these deadly variants.
'It's Coming': N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul issues Omicron warning, declares state of emergencyNew York became the center of the COVID-19 pandemic when it first began. The Omicron variant threatens to repeat that trend. I'm pretty sure China or Italy was the center of the Covid-19 pandemic when it first began. But, ok.
NPR Cookie Consent and ChoicesJust in time to push vaccines for young people that they DO NOT NEED.
WHO names new variant of concern 'omicron,' as scientists advise cautionNEW: WHO names new Covid strain first identified in southern Africa 'omicron' and calls it a 'variant of concern.' NBCNightlyNews Jimmy crack omnicorn and he don’t care Yes. It's just the beginning. Amen
U.S. To Restrict Travel From 8 Countries In Africa Due To New COVID VariantBREAKING: The White House announced that it will begin restricting travel from South Africa and seven other countries on the African continent starting Monday in light of the newly identified omicron variant of the coronavirus. Biden = racist Why wait until Monday? 💩 writing skills. You forgot to mention that South Africa discovered the Omicron strain and now we are being punished for sharing that with the world.
Will Flight Restrictions Help Prevent New COVID-19 Variant Spread?The World Health Organization has declared omicron a variant of concern. no; it can at best slow it down by a few days. Get ready for those antivaxxers to go bonkers when the experts tell intelligent people to do the right thing.💉
OMG, is it the year 2020!? Why would we ban Africans!? AmericaFirst It’s already too late. Just give it a few weeks.