The most recent Covid-19 variant called Omicron is likely already in the United States, are new travel plans and bans coming?
The world is in total panic in the last couple of days since the Omicron Covid-19 variant became a real thing and many countries immediately closed their borders for travelers while many other are expected to follow the same path.
Although very little is known about the new variant so far, countries are closing again as a precaution and the White House officials, president Biden and the health officials are yet to discuss if some measures will be applied in United States too.
It still remains unclear at this point if the Omicron variant is more or less contagious, how people with and without natural immunity will respond to the virus and most importantly, how much those fully vaccinated are protected of the new variant.
The answers to these questions are expected in the upcoming period, but many countries already put or will put travel restrictions until more details about the new variant are available.
Beginning Monday, the U.S. is restricting travel from eight South African countries for non-citizens. Japan is among the countries that already completely banned entry of all foreign visitors.
What do we know about the new variant so far? Well, Omicron was first discovered in South Africa last week and health officials there noticed rapid increase in new cases in the areas where the variant was discovered. They believe the variant is spreading quickly, much faster than the Delta variant.
In the last couple of days, the Omicron variant was found in many other countries around the world including Canada, France, Germany and Hong Kong.
“We can certainly see that in South Africa and a few neighboring countries in the south part of Africa, this does seem to be spreading quite rapidly, so the inference would be there that it’s particularly contagious. We don’t know about its severity, trying to collect that data as quickly as possible, said Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.
“The profile of the mutations strongly suggests that it’s going to have an advantage in transmissibility and that it might evade immune protection that you would get, for example, from a monoclonal antibody or from the convalescent serum after a person has been infected and possibly even against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
What is positive news that the Omicron variant hasn’t been officially detected in the country, but health experts believe that it could already be here.
World Health Organization warned the countries already closing their borders that the behavior is nothing but a plain panic since it will take some time until the new variant is thoroughly studied. The fact that this is new variant doesn’t mean it’s dangerous and deadly, WHO added.
In a statement, it said travel bans may play “a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
President Biden is expected to inform the public on Monday about country’s next steps when it comes to the new variant, but health experts strongly believe that the vaccines are still protecting those fully vaccinated and if needed, companies can quickly adapt their vaccines to the new variant.
The chief medical officer at Moderna said the company is trying to predict and quickly react to mutations. A revised vaccine could be ready in a few months. Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson are also at work on possible revisions.