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World: Johnson Says U.K. Awaiting Advice on Omicron Risks Before Review

The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland

  The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland 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.” 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.

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson said his U.K. government is still waiting for guidance on the omicron variant of Covid-19 ahead of a review of pandemic rules in mid-December, but ministers don’t yet see a need to change course.

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“We’re still waiting to see exactly how dangerous it is; what sort of effect it has in terms of deaths and hospitalizations” the British prime minister told reporters in Liverpool, northern England on Monday.

Biden addresses nation on omicron variant as some travel bans to US take effect

  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.

Boris Johnson Touts New Drugs Strategy In Visit To Police In Merseyside © Getty Images via Bloomberg Boris Johnson Touts New Drugs Strategy In Visit To Police In Merseyside

Politically wary of imposing further rules on a restive public, the government has said that while people should employ common sense in the run-up to seasonal celebrations, parties should not be canceled altogether.

But Johnson is under fire over allegations of a party at his office in December 2020, at a time when such gatherings were strictly banned. Opposition Labour Party MPs have referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police, while the prime minister has repeatedly said no rules were broken.

Meanwhile the scientist behind the U.K.’s joint Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will warn that the U.K. should remain cautious until officials know the effects of the new omicron variant because it is so easy to pass on.

How serious is omicron? It will take weeks to understand new COVID-19 variant, experts say.

  How serious is omicron? It will take weeks to understand new COVID-19 variant, experts say. The new omicron variant presents more questions (and uncertainty) than answers. And it will take a few weeks for data to be collected and tracked.The answer to all three is an unsatisfying “We don’t know yet.

“The spike protein of this variant contains mutations already known to increase transmisability of the virus but there are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron,” Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, will warn in a lecture Monday.


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‘Cautious’

“Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant,” she will say, according to the BBC. “But as we have seen before, reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe disease and death.”

On Saturday, officials announced all travelers arriving in England will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test from Tuesday in an effort to curb the spread of omicron, which has infected about 250 people in the U.K. since it was first detected in the country on Nov. 27. The government also banned travel from Southern Africa and increased the number of countries on its red list that require a 10-day quarantine.

Hard-Hit Brazil Sees First Cases of Omicron Variant, Pair of Travelers From South Africa

  Hard-Hit Brazil Sees First Cases of Omicron Variant, Pair of Travelers From South Africa The travelers arrived in Brazil on Nov. 23 and took a PCR test before they planned to return to South Africa two days later, the secretariat statement said.These are the first confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Latin America, in a country with over 600,000 deaths related to COVID reported, a figure that analysts think is below the actual number.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modeling which advises the U.K. government, told the BBC on Sunday that the measures would not make a “material difference” because the variant is already “spreading pretty rapidly.”

“If omicron is here in the U.K., and it certainly is, if there’s community transmission in the U.K., and it certainly looks that way, then it’s that community transmission that will drive a next wave,” he told the Andrew Marr program.

Gilbert will also call for governments to continue funding pandemic preparedness, saying there will be viruses in the future that could pose an even bigger threat than Covid.

“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods,” she will say. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.”

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Omicron Is About to Overwhelm Us .
The new COVID variant has all the makings of a massive wave.The relative virulence of the new variant is still clouded by enormous amounts of uncertainty. Only one patient has died with Omicron, thus far, and it is not entirely clear if the coronavirus was even the true cause of death. But in part this lack of severe outcomes reflects just how early in the wave we still are, even in South Africa; the variant was first identified there just three weeks ago, which means many of the early cases are still running their clinical course, and we don’t yet know what the outcomes will be.

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