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US follows Europe with travel restrictions as the COVID-19 variant causes global concern

  • US, Canada, UK and the EU restrict travel from southern Africa
  • WHO describes new variant as “worrying”
  • Stocks fall, oil plummets $ 10 a barrel
  • Variant has a protein that is dramatically different from the original
  • Epidemiologist warns that travel restrictions may be too late

WASHINGTON / GENEVA, Nov. 26 (Reuters) – The discovery of a new variant of coronavirus raised alarms around the world on Friday as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic saw their biggest slumps in more suffered than a year.

The United States will restrict travel from South Africa – where the new mutation was discovered – and neighboring countries from Monday, a senior Biden government official said.

Canada said it was closing its borders with these countries following flight bans announced by the UK, the European Union and others. Continue reading

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The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the variant called Omicron to be “worrying,” a label that has only been given to four variants so far.

However, it could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the mutations in the variant. Health officials are trying to determine whether Omicron is more transmissible or infectious than other variants, and whether vaccines are effective against it.

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South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla called the travel restrictions “unjustified,” but also said preliminary studies suggested the new variant may be more transferable.

“This new variant of the COVID-19 virus is very worrying. It is the most severely mutated version of the virus that we have seen to date,” said Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, UK.

“Some of the mutations, which are similar to the changes we have seen in other worrying variants, are associated with improved transmissibility and partial immunity brought about by vaccinations or natural infections.”

Those worries hit financial markets, particularly airline stocks and others in the travel sector, as well as oil, which fell about $ 10 a barrel. Continue reading

Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers on two KLM flights from C -e Town and Johannesburg were stranded on the tarmac at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for hours before being transferred for tests. Continue reading

“Bus to a hall to a huge queue. I can see COVID testers in light blue PPE far away. Still no snacks for the sad babies,” tweeted New York Times journalist Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on the flight from Johannesburg.

‘MOST IMPORTANT VARIANT’

Several other countries, including India, J -an, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates, have also tightened travel restrictions. Continue reading

In Geneva, the WHO – whose experts discussed the risks of the variant called B.1.1.529 on Friday – initially warned of travel restrictions. Continue reading

“It is really important that there are no knee-jerk reactions here,” said WHO Emergency Director Mike Ryan, praising South Africa’s public health facilities for picking up the new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Passengers wearing protective face masks during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic walk at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, J -an on June 13, 2021. REUTERS / Androniki Christodoulou

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The variant has a spike protein that is dramatically different from that of the original coronavirus vaccines are based on, the UK health authority said, raising concerns about how current vaccines will perform.

“As scientists have described, this is the most significant variant they have encountered so far,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Sh -ps told Sky News.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 2.5%, its worst day since late October 2020, and European stocks (.STOXX) had its worst day in 17 months as financial markets digested the news .

Cruise companies Carnival Corp (CCL.N), Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL.N), and Norwegian Cruise Line each slumped more than 9%, while stocks of United Airlines (UAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N ) and American Airlines (AAL.O) fell nearly 10%.

TOO LATE FOR TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS?

The coronavirus has hit the world in the two years since it was first identified in central China, infecting nearly 260 million people and killing 5.4 million people. Continue reading

A Hong Kong epidemiologist said it might be too late to tighten travel restrictions against the latest variant.

“Most likely this virus is already in other places. So if we close the door now, it will likely be too late,” said Ben Cowling of Hong Kong University.

Belgium identified the first case in Europe, adding the cases in Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

The Brazilian health authority Anvisa recommended restricting travel from some African countries, but President Jair Bolsonaro  -peared to oppose such measures.

Bolsonaro has received widespread criticism from public health experts for his handling of the pandemic, protesting against lockdowns, and choosing not to get vaccinated. Brazil has the second highest death toll from the virus in the world after the US. Continue reading

The discovery of the new variant comes as Europe and the United States step into winter, with more people gathering indoors before Christmas, providing a breeding ground for infection.

Friday also marked the start of the United States Christmas shopping season, when retailers are offering discounts. US shoppers found fewer crowded stores this year than in previous years. Continue reading

Realtor Kelsey Hupp, 36, was at Macy’s department store in downtown Chicago on Black Friday.

“Chicago is pretty safe and masked and vaccinated. I got my booster so I’m not worried,” she said.

Interactive gr -hical tracking of the global spread of the coronavirus: Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.

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Reporting from offices around the world; Writing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson; Editing by John Stonestreet, Toby Chopra and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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