New COVID-19 variant scare triggers Granthshala alarm, rattles stock markets

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The discovery of a new coronavirus variant called Omicron triggered Granthshala alarm on Friday as countries raced to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest drop in more than a year. faced.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said that omicrons can spread more rapidly than other forms, and preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection.

Epidemiologists have warned that travel restrictions may be too late to stop Omicron from spreading globally. The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.


A senior Biden administration official said the United States would restrict travel to and from South Africa and neighboring countries effective Monday.

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Moving forward, Canada said it was closing its borders to those countries, following a ban on flights announced by Britain, the European Union and others.

But it may take weeks for scientists to fully understand the mutation of the variant and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it. Omicron is the fifth type of concern designated by the WHO.

The UK Health Security Agency said the variant contains a spike protein that differs dramatically from one of the original coronaviruses on which the vaccines are based, raising fears about how current vaccines will fare.

Scientists issued a similar warning.

“This new form of the COVID-19 virus is very worrying. This is the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen to date,” said Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, UK.

“Some mutations that are similar to mutations that we have seen in other forms of anxiety are associated with increased communicability and partial resistance to immunity induced by vaccination or natural infection.”

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Those concerns plunged shares of airlines and others in financial markets, particularly the travel sector, and oil, which fell to nearly $10 a barrel.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 2.5%, its worst day since October 2020, and European stocks had their worst day in 17 months.

Cruise operators Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line each fell more than 10%, while shares of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines fell nearly as much.

‘Most Important Edition’

Several other countries, including India, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates, have also tightened travel restrictions.

The WHO in Geneva – whose experts discussed the risks it presents on Friday, called B.1.1.529 – had previously warned against travel restrictions for now.

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“It’s really important that there isn’t a knee-jerk reaction here,” said WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan, praising South Africa’s public health institutions for choosing to contain the new version of the coronavirus, which is the most common form of COVID-19. Causes -19.

Richard Lessells, an infectious disease expert in South Africa, also expressed disappointment over the travel restrictions, saying the focus should be on getting more people vaccinated in places that have struggled to access enough shots.

“That is why we talked about the risks of the apartheid vaccine. This virus can develop in the absence of an adequate level of vaccination,” he told Reuters.

less than 7% of people in low-income countries Has received his first COVID-19 shot, according to medical and human rights groups. Meanwhile, many developed countries are offering third-dose boosters.

Too Late for Travel Restrictions?

In the two years since it was first identified in central China, the coronavirus has ravaged the world, infecting 260 million people and killing 5.4 million.,

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An epidemiologist in Hong Kong said it may be too late to tighten travel restrictions against the latest version.

“Most likely this virus is already in other places. And so if we close the door now, it will probably be too late,” said Ben Cowling of the University of Hong Kong.

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa recommended that travel from some African countries be restricted, but President Jair Bolsonaro appeared to reject such measures.

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized by public health experts for managing the pandemic, railing against lockdowns and choosing not to vaccinate. Brazil has the second highest death toll from the virus in the world, behind only the United States.

The discovery of the new variant comes as Europe and the United States enter winter, and more people gather indoors for Christmas, providing a breeding ground for infection.

Friday also marked the start of the holiday shopping period in the United States, but stores were less crowded than in previous years.

Realtor Kelsey Houp, 36, was at Macy’s department store in downtown Chicago on Black Friday.

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“Chicago is very safe and masked and vaccinated. I got my booster so I’m not too worried about it,” she said.

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