Five things to know about omicron, new COVID-19 'variant of concern'
The announcement of a COVID-19 variant called B.1.1529 this week by scientists in South Africa, where it was first detected, has sent governments and financial markets around the world reeling.The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting on Friday, where it designated the new strain, which it called omicron, a "variant of concern," or VOC, a label applied when a particular strain is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst single-day drop of the year, plummeting more than 900 points.
LONDON -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases.
She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.”
WHO names new variant of concern 'omicron,' as scientists advise caution
The World Health Organization on Friday named the new variant "omicron" and called it a "variant of concern."In a statement released Friday, WHO said preliminary evidence suggested "an increased risk of reinfection with this variant" as it added the new discovery to the list of variants of concern, giving it the name "omicron.
The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.
The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.
— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan’s planning minister said a big vaccination campaign against coronavirus will be expedited this week to minimize the threat of the new variant.
Video: Particular concern of the rapid rise of this new Covid variant from South Africa, expert says (CNBC)
Asad Umar warned that the new coronavirus variant known as omicron will inevitably come to the Islamic nation in the next few weeks, and he urged unvaccinated citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Umar said since the world is interconnected, it is impossible to stop the new variant from entering Pakistan.
LISBON, Portugal — Portuguese health authorities said they have identified 13 cases of omicron, the new coronavirus variant believed to be more contagious, among team members of a professional soccer club.
UK set to expand COVID vaccine boosters amid omicron fears
LONDON (AP) — The independent body advising the British government on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines will likely decide Monday whether to expand the booster program to younger age groups following the discovery of the new omicron variant. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, or JCVI, has been asked by the British government to consider the merits of expanding the booster program to millions more people under the age of 40 and cutting the time period to a third jab.
The Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute said Monday that one of those who tested positive at the Lisbon-based Belenenses soccer club had recently traveled to South Africa, where the omicron variant was first identified.
The others, however, hadn't traveled to South Africa, indicating that this may be one of the very first cases of local transmission of the virus outside of southern Africa.
Biden addresses nation on omicron variant as some travel bans to US take effect
With the omicron variant prompting new travel restrictions this week, President Joe Biden will address the nation on Monday in remarks about the new COVID-19 variant. "While we have said that travel restrictions can slow the speed of omicron, it cannot prevent it. Here's what it does: It gives us time," Biden said in remarks from the White House. "It gives us time to take more actions. To move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get the vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania wants to repatriate 39 of its citizens from South Africa, including members of a professional rugby team, amid suspended flights because of concerns over the omicron variant.
Romania’s sports minister, Eduard Novak, said he has been in close contact with Romania’s national champion rugby team whose members are in South Africa.
Scotland Plans Independence Vote in 2023 Amid Discontent About U.K. Leaving European Union
While 52 percent of U.K. voters overall backed leaving the EU in a 2016 referendum, 62 percent of Scottish voters favored remaining in the bloc."Next year, COVID permitting, as we emerge from winter into spring, the campaign to persuade a majority of people in Scotland that our future will be more secure as an independent nation will resume in earnest," Sturgeon said. "In the course of next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023. And just as importantly, our party will set out afresh the positive case for independence.
A health worker shows an empty syringe after inoculating a woman with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine during the first day of a nationwide three-day vaccination drive at a school in Quezon city, Philippines on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. There has been no reported infection so far caused by the new variant in the Philippines, a Southeast Asian pandemic hotspot where COVID-19 cases have considerably dropped to below 1,000 each day in recent days, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has set off a new alarm. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A woman holds onto a cotton pad after being inoculated with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine during the first day of a nationwide three-day vaccination drive at a school in Quezon city, Philippines on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. There has been no reported infection so far caused by the new variant in the Philippines, a Southeast Asian pandemic hotspot where COVID-19 cases have considerably dropped to below 1,000 each day in recent days, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has set off a new alarm. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Airplanes sit on the tarmac at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. As cases of a new coronavirus variant are confirmed around the world, Japan announced Monday that it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors, joining an increasing number of countries that are tightening their borders as fear spreads of yet another extension of pandemic suffering. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
A man lowers his mask to speak on his phone outside a restaurant in Beijing, China, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. As cases of a new coronavirus variant are confirmed around the world, an increasing number of countries are tightening their borders as fear spreads of yet another extension of pandemic suffering. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Japan suspends new reservations on all incoming flights .
TOKYO (AP) — Japan continued its aggressive stance against a new coronavirus variant on Wednesday, asking international airlines to stop taking new reservations for all flights arriving in the country until the end of December in a further tightening of already strict border controls. The transportation ministry said the request is an emergency precaution amid growing worry over the spread of the new omicron variant. The move by the world’s third largest economy, coupled with its recent return to a ban on foreign visitors, is among the most stringent anywhere, and more in line with cloistered neighbor China than with some other democracies in the region.