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WHO flags Omicron risk, travel curbs tighten, Biden urges vaccination

CoronavirusNov 29, 2021 05:48PM ET
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6/6 © Reuters. People wait in front of an "Appointment Desk" for quarantine and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test appointments inside Schiphol Airport, after Dutch health authorities said that 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on flights from South Africa tested posi 2/6

By Stephanie Nebehay and Alexander Winning

GENEVA/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday the Omicron coronavirus variant carried a very high risk of infection surges, while border closures by more countries cast a shadow over an economic recovery from the two-year pandemic.

Big airlines acted swiftly to protect their hubs by curbing passenger travel https://www.reuters.com/world/travellers-edge-countries-tighten-rules-due-omicron-fears-travel-agents-2021-11-29 from southern Africa, where the new Omicron variant was first detected, fearing that a spread of the variant would trigger restrictions from other destinations beyond the immediately affected regions, industry sources said.

But shares in carriers bounced back with the rest of the market on Monday following Friday's rout as hopes grew that the variant might prove to be milder than initially feared.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the new variant muddies the outlook on inflation because prices could keep rising for longer than earlier thought.

The rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the new variant "pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation," Powell said in testimony prepared for delivery on Tuesday to the U.S. Senate. Health-related concerns could "reduce people's willingness to work in person, which would slow progress in the labor market and intensify supply-chain disruptions."

Credit rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Moody's (NYSE:MCO) Investors Service warned that Omicron could hurt global growth prospects and push up prices.

U.S. President Joe Biden urged Americans not to panic https://www.reuters.com/world/us/fauci-says-new-us-restrictions-amid-omicron-unlikely-2021-11-29 and said the government was working with pharmaceutical companies to make contingency plans if new vaccines were needed.

Biden said the country would not go back to lockdowns this winter, but urged people to get vaccinated, get their boosters and wear masks.

"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," Biden said in remarks at the White House following a meeting with his COVID-19 team. "We're going to fight and beat this new variant."

The United States has blocked entry for most visitors from eight southern African nations. Biden said the travel restrictions would give the U.S. time to get more people vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy in the United States and elsewhere has thwarted public health officials' attempts to control the virus.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the Biden administration's vaccine requirement for healthcare workers likely exceeded its authority.

The WHO advised its 194 member nations that any surge in infections could have severe consequences, but said no deaths had yet been linked to the new variant.

"Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic," the WHO said. The overall global risk related Omicron is " very high," it said.

NEEDS MORE RESEARCH

Further research was needed to understand Omicron's potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines and previous infections, the WHO said.

An infectious disease expert from South Africa, where scientists first identified Omicron, said it was too early to say whether symptoms were more severe than previous variants, but the variant did appear to be more transmissible.

The expert, Salim Abdool Karim, also a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York, said existing vaccines were probably effective at stopping Omicron from causing severe illness. Scientists have said it could take weeks to understand the severity of Omicron.

South African cases were likely to exceed 10,000 a day this week, up from barely 300 a day two weeks ago, Karim added.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa denounced "unjustified and unscientific" travel bans that damage tourism-reliant economies.

Health ministers from the Group of Seven bloc of wealthy nations praised South Africa for its "exemplary work" in detecting the variant and alerting others.

JITTERY MARKETS

Fears the new variant might be resistant to vaccines helped wipe roughly $2 trillion off global stock markets on Friday, but markets calmed on Monday, even after Japan said it would close its borders to foreigners, following a similarly wide ban by Israel. [MKTS/GLOB]

The prospect of a fast-spreading variant has raised fears of a return of the sort of restrictions that shut down a swathe of industries in 2020.

"This is new," said Nissan (OTC:NSANY) Motor Co's U.S. spokeswoman, Lloryn Love-Carter. "We're monitoring of course, but we still have a lot of pretty strict COVID protocols in place."

Portugal found 13 cases of the variant at a Lisbon football club. Spain, Sweden, Scotland and Austria also reported their first cases.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that restrictions would isolate southern African countries.

"The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world," he said.

Guterres has long warned about the dangers of vaccine inequality globally and the risk that low immunisation rates are a breeding ground for variants.

More than 261 million people in over 210 countries have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019 and 5,456,515​ have died, according to a Reuters tally.

WHO flags Omicron risk, travel curbs tighten, Biden urges vaccination
 

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Comments (10)
Jo Pa
Jo Pa Nov 29, 2021 4:23PM ET
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The only solution to Omnicron is to funnel another billion dollars to Big Pharma for a vac that's so effective you need multiple boosters.
TheLast LoserDon
TheLast LoserDon Nov 29, 2021 4:23PM ET
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I have taken the 2 original vaccine in February, got the booster in early November and just Saturday had the seasonal flu shot. I believe in science and do not adhere to those conspiracy theories that so many using this website have in their minds. But to each his own. Lots of families around here have had funerals for loved ones that thought it was a stain of the cold or seasonal flu. Too late once you are in the emergency room.
Lake Lot
Lake Lot Nov 29, 2021 4:23PM ET
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Smartest comment on this thread !! Rest of the comments usually by uneducated individuals
RETAIL Singh
RETAIL Singh Nov 29, 2021 2:04PM ET
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within 2weeks 30000 coming mark my word come on.. check below I always helped u all godbless
Arub Baji
Arub Baji Nov 29, 2021 1:56PM ET
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I hear the world govt's are training sheep herding dogs behind the scenes to round up the vac'd once they are done with them after the 10th jab and the fear of the press articles mentioning another variant coming where only the natural immune system will be able to fight off.  Don't worry, the gov't will protect you.  Want a candy little one?  Come closer ... closerrrr ...
Thomas Simpson
Thomas Simpson Nov 29, 2021 1:32PM ET
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In another article today Moderna questioned the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron. If that's true it's just another tool giving people a false sense of security and feeds the fear mongers.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 29, 2021 1:10PM ET
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so many antivaccers, so many anti science zealots. it's going to be a lot easier to thin the herd of the ignorant, and the stupid, than I thought.
TheLast LoserDon
TheLast LoserDon Nov 29, 2021 1:10PM ET
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Amen brother. I pray "God will send down angels to those that have become so lost in their own believe system that they fail to rely upon the scientist and doctors and behave as those of meDIEval times."
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley Nov 29, 2021 10:34AM ET
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WHO continues to manipulate the serfs as the common cold is discovered...fixed
Michael Young
Michael Young Nov 29, 2021 10:18AM ET
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the New variant made in elite global, they want make new World order and eliminated million people use covid, i know, and they worshiper for satan and devil, they want more people panic
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 29, 2021 10:18AM ET
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Micheal you sound like you're in a panic; are you scared there coming to get you. this delusion you're experiencing needs to be looked at by a professional.
andy matalobos
andy matalobos Nov 29, 2021 9:44AM ET
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Through out the centuries Africa has always been the experimental grounds for the biggest pharmaceutical laboratories, chemicals, weaponry products..monkeys can see, hear but can't talk.
Tom Scurlo
Tom Scurlo Nov 29, 2021 9:25AM ET
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Wake Up People!!!!! Can’t you see the Fear Mongoring of all of this and Big Pharma (and Governments) getting rich off of this?????That’s OK… because the blood of the Alpha and Omega was poured out to save those that have faith in Jesus Christ!!!!All these prople that push this fear mongoring will have to account for their sctions one day when they meet God face to face.
John Healy
John Healy Nov 29, 2021 9:25AM ET
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Your god’s the biggest fear-mongerer in all of history.
Ac Tektrader
Ac Tektrader Nov 29, 2021 9:25AM ET
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Tom, you sound like you're in a panic, and experiencing paranoia; are you scared there coming to get you. this delusion you're experiencing needs to be looked at by a professional.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Nov 29, 2021 2:20AM ET
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Herd mentality: it is safe if u go w the herd
David David
David9 Nov 29, 2021 2:20AM ET
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Are you a Dr. or scientist? If not, please don't say what is ok or not ok...
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Nov 29, 2021 2:20AM ET
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David David Head of Health Dept in South Africa said this variant is very mild and can be treated at home. There you go.
 
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