The newest variant of coronavirus, the omicron variant, has continued to pop up in countries all over the world.
According to the Associated Press, the omicron variant was identified last week by researchers in South Africa, but experts do not yet know if it is more contagious or more likely to cause serious illness. They are also unsure of how it will respond to vaccines.
On Sunday, The Netherlands reported 13 omicron cases. Canada and Australia each reported two cases.
In response, many countries have closed their borders. In Israel, the government is banning foreigners from entering the country. Morocco is suspending all incoming flights for the next two weeks. The Japanese Prime Minister also told reporters that he is planning on tightening border controls.
The World Health Organization has said that closing borders has a limited effect on the spread. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S., also said not much is known about the new variant.
“I do think it’s more contagious when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in South Africa,” Collins said. “It has the earmarks therefore of being particularly likely to spread from one person to another… What we don’t know is whether it can compete with delta.”
Collins reiterated that people still need to rely on the health and safety efforts already recommended, such as vaccines, mask-wearing and hand washing.
“I know, America, you’re really tired about hearing those things, but the virus is not tired of us,” Collins said.
Last week, 13 people who arrived from South Africa in the Netherlands tested positive for omicron. In total, of those arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s airport before a flight ban, 61 people tested positive for coronavirus. All were placed in quarantine at a nearby hotel.
In the U.S., a travel ban from South Africa and seven other southern African countries has gone into effect.
“It’s going to give us a period to enhance our preparedness,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Fauci also said it would be about two more weeks before scientists have definitive information on the variant omicron.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.