There’s growing global alarm over Omicron – the new coronavirus variant that first emerged in South Africa. Researchers say it could be the most infectious form of the virus so far, and it might even beat current vaccines.
The international response has been swift. Many countries have shut down air travel from southern Africa. The South African government says the bans are an overreaction.
Omicron has moved quickly. Now countries around the world are racing to get ahead, banning flights from the region where the variant was first discovered. South Africans suddenly find themselves cut off from the world.
Since the UK announced its travel ban, many other countries have followed suit. South Africa’s government says they acted too quickly.
As quickly as the travel restrictions were announced, they are more likely to slow down rather than completely stop the spread of omicron. Dutch health officials fear that dozens of COVID-infected passengers who arrived in Amsterdam on Friday might also be infected with the new variant.
Hong Kong, Israel, and Belgium have already confirmed cases. The world has made progress in the fight against the coronavirus, but the new variant shows that the battle is far from won.
The message for now from many officials: Get the vaccine, get the booster, and follow public health regulations.