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Friday, March 31, 2023

First Omicron Case in U.S. Sparks Global Alarm over Virus Variant

The first case of the Omicron version of the coronavirus was reported in the United States on Thursday, and the Japanese central bank warned of economic suffering as countries respond with tougher containment measures.

The first documented case in the United States was a fully vaccinated Californian who returned from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive seven days later.

President Joe Biden is working on a strategy to combat COVID-19 this winter, and individuals familiar with the situation told Reuters that one measure will be to prolong the requirement for tourists to wear masks until mid-March. According to the sources, an official statement is likely on Thursday.

In addition, the White House intends to unveil tougher testing requirements for overseas visitors.

According to a letter seen by Reuters from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, airlines in the United States were urged to provide over the names of passengers arriving from regions of southern Africa affected by Omicron.

Much is unclear about the new variety, which was discovered in South Africa on Nov. 8 and has already spread to at least two dozen nations.

Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease researcher in the United States, said on Wednesday that determining how readily the variety spreads, the severity of the sickness it causes, and if it can dodge presently available vaccinations might take two weeks or more.

Early epidemiological data revealed Omicron was able to circumvent some protection, but current vaccinations should still protect against severe sickness and mortality, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Maria van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist of the World Health Organization (WHO), said during a press conference that data on Omicron’s contagiousness should be ready “within days.”

The vaccine BioNTech is developing in collaboration with Pfizer (PFE.N) is expected to provide excellent protection against severe Omicron illness, according to BioNTech’s CEO.

Financial markets have been startled by early evidence that Omicron is far more infectious than earlier varieties, fearing that further restrictions could suffocate a fragile recovery from the pandemic’s economic devastation.

After Wall Street’s major averages fell more than 1% on Wednesday as investors responded to the first U.S. lawsuit and rising inflation fears, key sharemarket indices in Japan and Australia were down in opening trade on Thursday.

Hitoshi Suzuki, a member of the Bank of Japan’s board of directors, cautioned that if the Omicron variety spreads and supply constraints remain, Japan’s economic recovery may fall short of forecasts. find out more

“If the impact of supply limitations is greater or lasts longer than planned,” Suzuki added, “there’s a possibility that economic growth could undershoot forecasts even more next year.”

The governor of the Philippine central bank sounded more upbeat.

“We’re not worried about… the new variation. I believe the impact of it has been exaggerated much too much “Governor Benjamin Diokno of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas stated during a press conference.

As of Nov. 28, the WHO announced that 56 countries have implemented travel precautions to protect against Omicron.

As daily coronavirus case counts surged to a new high, South Korea on Thursday stopped quarantine exemptions for fully vaccinated arriving travelers for two weeks. find out more On Wednesday, South Korea confirmed the first five cases of the Omicron variant.

In a preemptive attempt to stop the spread of the Omicron version should it reach Southeast Asia’s largest country, Indonesia strengthened border controls, prolonged quarantine, and prohibited travel on important toll highways.

Nearly all visitors who have visited one of eight southern African nations have been forbidden from entering the United States.

The European Union has moved the commencement of its vaccination rollout for children aged 5 to 11 years old from December 13 to December 13, citing a “race against time” to prevent the spread of the new type.

At a press conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “Prepare for the worse, hope for the best.”

In response to the new variant, the United Kingdom and the United States have both expanded their booster programs, though the WHO recommends that wealthy countries share more vaccines with vulnerable people in poorer countries, where variants are most likely to emerge as long as inoculation rates are low.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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