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Omicron rapidly dominating in South Africa; U.S. reports first case

Stock MarketsDec 01, 2021 10:56PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait in line inside the terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., November 24, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo 2/2

By Promit Mukherjee and Trevor Hunnicutt

JOHANNESBURG/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Heavily mutated Omicron is rapidly becoming the dominant variant of the coronavirus in South Africa less than four weeks after it was first detected there, and the United States on Wednesday became the latest country to identify an Omicron case within its borders.

The first known U.S. case https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/us-reports-first-case-omicron-variant-2021-12-01 was a fully vaccinated person in California who returned to the United States from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive seven days later.

The person had mild symptoms and was in self-quarantine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, told reporters at the White House.

Late on Tuesday, airlines in the United States were told https://www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-us-orders-airlines-disclose-passengers-who-have-been-southern-africa-2021-12-01 to hand over the names of passengers arriving from parts of southern Africa hit by Omicron, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention letter seen by Reuters.

Key questions remain about the new variant, which has been found in two dozen countries, including Spain, Canada, Britain, Austria and Portugal. The UAE reported its first case on Wednesday, the second Gulf country after Saudi Arabia.

Early indications suggesting Omicron may be markedly more contagious than previous variants have rattled financial markets, fearful that new restrictions could choke off a tentative recovery from the economic ravages of the pandemic.

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said early epidemiological data suggested https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/safrica-festival-halted-after-36-test-positive-covid-site-2021-12-01 Omicron was able to evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death.

It said 74% of all the virus genomes it had sequenced last month had been of the new variant, which was first found in a sample taken on Nov. 8 in Gauteng, South Africa's most populous province.

The number of new cases reported in South Africa doubled from Tuesday to Wednesday.

World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told a briefing that data on how contagious Omicron was should be available "within days."

BioNTech's CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) was likely to offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

'PREPARE FOR THE WORST'

The president of the European Union's executive body said there was a "race against time" to stave off the new variant while scientists establish how dangerous it is. The EU brought forward the start of its vaccine rollout for 5-to-11-year-olds by a week to Dec. 13.

"Prepare for the worst, hope for the best," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told a news conference.

She said that full vaccination and a booster shot provided the strongest possible protection, according to scientists - a view echoed by Fauci.

But WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan criticized developed countries pushing booster shots for large parts of their fully vaccinated populations when vulnerable people in many poorer regions have had no vaccination at all.

"There is no evidence that I'm aware of that will suggest that boosting the entire population is going to necessarily provide any greater protection for otherwise healthy individuals against hospitalization or death," he said.

Britain and the United States have both expanded their booster programs in response to the new variant.

The WHO has noted many times that the coronavirus will keep producing new variants for as long as it is allowed to circulate freely in large unvaccinated https://www.reuters.com/world/vaccine-coverage-below-10-seven-eastern-mediterranean-nations-who-2021-12-01 populations.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

Some 56 countries were reportedly implementing travel measures to guard against Omicron as of Nov. 28, the WHO said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed what he called "travel apartheid."

"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," the WHO said https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/officials-offer-vaccine-reassurance-who-advises-against-travel-bans-2021-11-30, while advising those who were unwell, at risk, or 60 years and over and unvaccinated to postpone travel.

The United States has barred nearly all foreigners who have been in one of eight southern African countries.

Hong Kong added Japan, Portugal and Sweden to its travel restrictions. Malaysia temporarily barred travelers from eight African countries and said Britain and the Netherlands could join the list.

Fitch Ratings said it lowered its global air passenger traffic forecasts for 2021 and 2022.

"It feels a little bit like we are back to where we were a year ago," said Deidre Fulton, a partner at consultancy MIDAS Aviation, at an industry webinar https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/global-airlines-prepare-omicron-induced-volatility-2021-12-01. "And that's not a great prospect for the industry and beyond."

Wall Street's major averages fell more than 1% on Wednesday, erasing morning gains, on investor angst over the first U.S. case, along with concerns about inflation. Crude oil prices also fell. [MKTS/GLOB]

Fauci said it could take two weeks or more to gain insight into how easily the variant spreads from person to person, how severe the disease is that it causes, and whether it can bypass the protections provided by the vaccines currently available.

"We don't have enough information right now," said Fauci, adding that the variant's molecular profile "suggests that it might be more transmissible, and that it might elude some of the protection of vaccines. ... We have to be prepared that there's going to be a diminution in protection."

Omicron rapidly dominating in South Africa; U.S. reports first case
 

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Comments (16)
Jamie An
Jamie An Dec 02, 2021 12:44AM ET
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I'm really worry virus, tapering, debt ceiling... Too many uncertainties in the market.
Allatra Yiveh
AllatraYiveh Dec 02, 2021 12:12AM ET
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Media-driven fear. Omicron is more just like ordinary flu than deadly SARS that comes years ago. Yet, the media is so hype. Let me ask, how many death in percentage in this Omicron virus?
Saroop Calvete
Saroop Calvete Dec 02, 2021 12:12AM ET
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It is more like common cold than a flu
John Smit
John Smit Dec 02, 2021 12:02AM ET
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HIV is in the vaccines, is this true?
Martijn WN
Speculeerbeer Dec 02, 2021 12:02AM ET
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Lol of course not
perplexed76 .
perplexed76 . Dec 01, 2021 11:15PM ET
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omicron here to bancrupt financial parasites of all kinds
Johann de Jager
Wondering Dec 01, 2021 10:13PM ET
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We’ll know in a couple of weeks what the CFR is. If it’s low, its basically free natural immunity imho.
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam Dec 01, 2021 8:45PM ET
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OMGicron
HUNG NGUYEN
HUNG NGUYEN Dec 01, 2021 8:37PM ET
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South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said early epidemiological data suggested Omicron was able to evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death.New record high following weeks...NOT TO WORRY FAKE MARKET TURMOIL....
Allatra Yiveh
AllatraYiveh Dec 01, 2021 8:37PM ET
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Agree, this is all just fake. The corrupt elites seem don't want Covid to over.
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Dec 01, 2021 8:19PM ET
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"DOMINATING!!"
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Dec 01, 2021 8:19PM ET
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World governments are "DOMINATING" their citizens
John Avenetti
John Avenetti Dec 01, 2021 6:55PM ET
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Omicron and Delta (The variants) Rearrange the letters to both words and you have just the right amount to spell......"Media Control". Are you kidding me? Even IF it's a coincidence this is unbelievable.
Martijn WN
Speculeerbeer Dec 01, 2021 6:55PM ET
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Lol this is next level stupidity
Llewellyn Kruger
Llewellyn Kruger Dec 01, 2021 4:05PM ET
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Investing.com perpetuating garbage.
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Dec 01, 2021 3:03PM ET
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"The heavily mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly becoming dominant in South Africa..." This on-going rhetoric is just too much, and the worse part is that people believe it.
Eulon Purvis
Eulon Purvis Dec 01, 2021 2:16PM ET
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75 percent of those who die are obese. in US more have died in 2021 than in 2020 when there was no vaccine
Fat Nugget
FatNugget3 Dec 01, 2021 1:26PM ET
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well, we'll have data soon enough
Larry Langley
Larry Langley Dec 01, 2021 8:53AM ET
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here's the problem. Nobody is sure if current tests will recognize it.. other is 1 day really hard on someone to do many places before an expensive flight.
John Laurens
John Laurens Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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Not gonna work. Wasting everyone’s time and stepping liberty. We need to focus on TREATMENTS ONLY, and let this thing run it’s course.
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Tom Woosley
Tom Woosley Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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I have to agree at least in part. Numerous doctors have reported successfully treating Covid patients with therapeutics but that is kept quiet by the MSM. Every time a new variant is identified the response seems to be another booster. How about we look at all possibilities instead of focusing on a "vaccine" with such limited track record and unknow mid to long term effects. Possibly something to do with J&J and Pfizer being the largest stock holdings of Congress?
Bernard Devlin
Bernard Devlin Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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IVERMECTIN is an effective treatment for the symptoms of COVID-19
Allatra Yiveh
AllatraYiveh Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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Mez Chro  No, it is the overreaction and overprevention from government that really hurt and make people suffer (e.g. lockdown, mandate vaccine, regular PCR test, etc.). If C19 virus eventually mutates to become common flu, would you still accept to live in fear, vaccine booster shot and lockdown on regular basis forever??
John Laurens
John Laurens Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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Jurgen Daub  I'm not fat and lazy, so was able to beat delta in 3 days. There are amazing treatments that work very well, but there's no money to be made that way.. hence the "vaccine" scam. This variant isn't as bad as the flu, soo time to get back to life as usual.
John Laurens
John Laurens Dec 01, 2021 5:13AM ET
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Bernard Devlin  yes it is. My sisters used to great effect.
armin jafarzaei
armin jafarzaei Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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One person dead of omicron in iran
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Anthony Cloud
Anthony Cloud Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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Thousands dead in USA from obesity.
Jurgen Daub
Jurgen Daub Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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millions not thousands, and there is treatment for, can you believe.
Matt Novakovich
Matt Novakovich Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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abortion kills 50mil a month. clearly we don't care about saving lives
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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Matt Novakovich  Not to mention road injuries and deaths (drivers, riders, and pedestrians), and alcohol-related deaths!  The response to COVID19 has never been about saving lives, it's about control and tyranny.  When you're told you either take an experimental vaccine (that has been shown to cause death and injuries) or you lose your job, something is very wrong.  It would also help if countries stopped playing around with deadly viruses and ramping up their potency (e.g. U.S., Canada, China, etc.).
Allatra Yiveh
AllatraYiveh Dec 01, 2021 1:39AM ET
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perplexed76 .  Yes, mutate quickly into similar to common cold.
 
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