New variant of COVID-19 has reached over 57 countries

Kashish Balan, Contributing Writer

Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed the first US case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in California. The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the latest strain of the coronavirus to be designated a Variant of Concern (VOC) by the World Health Organization (WHO).This new and potentially more transmissible COVID variant has raised concerns across the world, as more and more countries are reporting cases. 


How the Biden Administration is reacting to the Omicron Variant

Speaking from the White House, Biden explained, “Sooner or later we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We’ll have to face this new threat just as we face those who have come before it,” Biden said, speaking from the White House. 

Biden also encourages Americans to remain calm as scientists work to determine the strength and the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, saying the U.S. has the ability to deal with the new strain. Stricter requirements have also taken effect for inbound travelers to the US. The United States is now requiring international travelers to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test before their flight. The United States has barred travelers who have been in any of the eight southern African countries where they originated. The Biden Administration also urges citizens to get vaccinated and to take their booster shot to help their immunity against COVID. 


How other countries are responding

As governments and people all over the world await more scientific data about the transmissibility and dangers of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, countries are quickly issuing travel restrictions – primarily restricting travel from southern Africa. The restrictions vary from full border closures to suspending flights, enforcing quarantines, restricting arrivals, and requiring testing.

While some nations like Japan have opted for more stringent measures, such as closing their borders to international travelers entirely, other countries have opted for targeted travel closures. Most of the bans restrict entry of individuals who have been in the subject countries within 14 days of travel. The countries subject to many of these bans are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. These countries, all in southern Africa, are condemning the restrictions, noting that Omicron has already been found in other countries, including Scotland and Canada.  The new variant reportedly was found as early as November 19, 2021 and is currently in 20 countries, including those in Europe. Additionally, many countries in Europe have required out of country travelers to wear masks both indoors and outdoors.