A new and potientially more transmissible covid-19 variant first reported in South Africa has prompted the US and other countries across the globe to impose travel restrictions on at least six African Nations.
This is set to take effect from Monday and according to senior Biden administration officials, other countries included in the restrictions are Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana. The travel ban does not apply you US citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Only three weeks ago the Biden administration lifted travel restrictions on over 30 countries, including South Africa.
President Joe Biden said in a statement that he will be guided by what the science and his medical team advises moving forward. He emphasized the importance of global vaccinations in light of the new variant and called on countries to waive intellectual property precautions for covid-19 vaccines so they can be manufactured globally.
The World Health Organization on Friday classified the B.1.1.529 Variant as a “variant of concern” with its large number of mutations which could lead to potentially high transmissibility and an increased risk of infection. WHO named the new variant “Omicron.”
The organization added that the number of cases of Omicron appears to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa. To date, only dozens of cases have been reported in South Africa, Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
Other countries including the UK, France, Italy, Canada, Austria, Singapore, Japan, Malta, Malaysia, Switzerland, Morocoo, The Phillipines, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands and Jordan are set to announce their own travel restrictions to the African nations.
Meanwhile, vaccine company Moderna says the new variant is a potential risk to the efficacy of its covid-19 vaccine and as such the compay said it is working rapidly to test the ability of its vaccine. Data is expected in the coming weeks.
According to Moderna, if the current vaccine and its booster dose are insufficient, one solution is boosting people with a larger dose which is currently being tested.