November 29. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday the Omicron coronavirus variant carried a very high risk of infection surges as more countries closed borders, casting a shadow over economic recovery from the two-year pandemic.
Big airlines acted swiftly to protect their hubs by curbing passenger travel from southern Africa, fearing that a spread of the new 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 after Friday’s rout as hopes grew that the variant might prove to be milder than initially feared.
President Joe Biden urged Americans not to panic and said the United States 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.
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.
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 it did appear to be more transmissible.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim also 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.