Cautious, Weary World Slams Doorways Shut In Face Of New Omicron Coronavirus Variant

BRUSSELS (AP) — Nations world wide sought Monday to maintain the brand new omicron variant at bay with journey bans and additional restrictions, even because it stays unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan introduced it might droop entry of all international guests, whereas new circumstances of the variant recognized days in the past by researchers in South Africa appeared as far aside as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities have been investigating whether or not a few of the infections there might be among the many first reported circumstances of native transmission of the variant exterior of southern Africa.

The stream of latest circumstances confirmed the close to impossibility of maintaining the genie within the bottle in a globalized world of journey and open borders.

But, many tried to just do that, even towards the urging of the World Well being Group, which famous that border closures usually have restricted impact however can wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods. Some argued that such restrictions nonetheless might present worthwhile time to investigate the brand new variant. Little is thought about it, together with whether or not it’s extra contagious, extra prone to trigger severe sickness or extra in a position to evade the safety of vaccines.

Whereas the preliminary international response to COVID-19 was criticized as sluggish and haphazard, the response to the brand new variant got here shortly.

“This time the world confirmed it’s studying,” stated EU Fee President Ursula von der Leyen, singling out South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for reward. “South Africa’s analytic work and transparency and sharing its outcomes was indispensable in permitting a swift international response. It little doubt saved many lives,” she stated.

The WHO has additionally praised South Africa and Botswana for shortly alerting the world to the presence of the brand new variant — and plenty of have warned they shouldn’t be punished for his or her pace, particularly since it could by no means be recognized when or the place the brand new model first cropped up.

However that didn’t maintain von der Leyen again from pushing the 27-nation European Union towards imposing a right away ban on flights from seven southern African nations — much like measures many international locations have taken.

Worldwide travellers sporting private protecting gear (PPE) arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on Nov. 29, 2021, as Australia information its first circumstances of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

WILLIAM WEST through Getty Photographs

Circumstances had already been reported in Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, earlier than Portuguese authorities recognized 13 circumstances of omicron amongst workforce members of the Belenenses skilled soccer membership. Authorities reported that one member just lately traveled to South Africa. Its sport towards Benfica over the weekend had be deserted at half time for lack of gamers.

Quarantining additionally turned a problem when Dutch navy police needed to arrest a husband and spouse who left a resort the place they have been being held after testing constructive and boarded a airplane sure for Spain.

“Quarantine just isn’t compulsory, however we assume individuals will act responsibly,” spokeswoman Petra Faber stated.

Taking no probabilities, Japan, which has but to detect any omicron circumstances, reimposed border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term enterprise guests, international college students and staff.

“We’re taking the step as an emergency precaution to forestall a worst-case state of affairs in Japan,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated of the measure that begins Tuesday. Japan has stored its border closed to international vacationers from all nations.

Israel determined to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco stated it might droop all incoming flights for 2 weeks beginning Monday.

Regardless of the worldwide fear, scientists cautioned that it’s nonetheless unclear whether or not omicron is extra alarming than different variations of a virus that has killed greater than 5 million individuals. And in some elements of the world, authorities have been transferring in the wrong way.

In Malaysia, officers went forward with the partial reopening of a bridge connecting it to the city-state of Singapore. And New Zealand introduced it should proceed plans to reopen internally after months of shutdown, although it’s also proscribing journey from 9 southern African nations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated she didn’t anticipate any additional restrictions, and bars, eating places and gymnasiums in Auckland can reopen from late Thursday, ending a coronavirus lockdown that started in August.

“We’ve come by way of the previous two years of COVID in higher form than almost anyplace on the planet,” Ardern stated, pointing to low dying charges, a rising economic system and excessive vaccination charges.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Nationwide Institutes of Well being in the USA, in the meantime, stated no information as but counsel the brand new variant causes extra severe sickness than earlier COVID-19 variants.

Collins echoed a number of specialists in saying the information ought to make everybody redouble their efforts to make use of the instruments the world already has, together with vaccinations, booster pictures and measures comparable to mask-wearing.

The U.S. is banning journey from South Africa and 7 different southern African international locations beginning Monday. “It’s going to present us a time period to boost our preparedness,” the USA’ high infectious illnesses professional, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated of the ban on ABC’s “This Week.”

Fauci says it should take roughly two extra weeks to have extra definitive data on the transmissibility, severity and different traits of omicron, based on a press release from the White Home.

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Related Press journalists from world wide contributed to this report.

Comply with AP’s protection of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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