The WHO Monday warned that the Omicron variant of coronavirus carries a “very high” global risk of surges.
More countries have reported cases, prompting border closures across the world.
Scientists haven’t yet finalized the impact it could cause or its severity. They said it could take weeks to understand the severity of Omicron. It which was first identified in southern Africa and several countries have imposed travel curbs.
Though the global stock markets reacted panickily to the development Friday, they returned back to normalcy Monday.
“The overall global risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron is assessed as very high,” the World Health Organization advised its 194 member nations. It warned of “severe consequences” in some areas.
WHO said no deaths linked to Omicron variant had been reported so far.
Portugal reported 13 cases of the variant at a Lisbon football club. Scotland and Austria also reported their first Omicron cases on Monday.
“These are temporary, exceptional measures that we are taking for safety’s sake, until there is clearer information about the Omicron variant,” Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.
Meanwhile India ordered Covid-19 testing at airports from Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden will provide fresh details of the variant Monday, the White House said.
The WHO urged members to speed vaccination of high-priority groups.
“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations,” it said, adding: “COVID-19 cases and infections are expected in vaccinated persons, albeit in a small and predictable proportion.”
South Africa’s government responded angrily to the travel bans, which it said are “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.” It said it will try to persuade countries that imposed them to reconsider.
The U.K. Saturday tightened rules on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two omicron cases.