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Omicron Shows the Importance of a Global Covid Response According to the World Health Organization (W.H.O. ),

The novel Omicron coronavirus variety, according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, highlights the need for stronger global pandemic collaboration, and that the existing system “disincentives” nations from exposing new risks.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that no area, nation, society, or person can be considered safe until we’re all secure. The appearance of the severely altered Omicron version emphasizes how dangerous and hazardous our position is. Instead than being punished, South Africa and Botswana should be commended for identifying, sequencing, and reporting this variation. Indeed, Omicron exemplifies why the world needs a new pandemic agreement. Our existing structure makes it difficult for governments to warn others about risks that will surely reach their borders. We don’t yet know whether Omicron is linked to increased transmission, more severe illness, increased risk of reinfections, or increased chance of vaccine evasion. Scientists at the Globe Health Organization and throughout the world are working feverishly to find answers to these issues.

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The novel Omicron coronavirus variety, according to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, highlights the need for stronger global pandemic collaboration, and that the existing system “disincentives” nations from exposing new risks. CreditCredit… Shutterstock/EPA/James Gourley

The new Omicron strain of the coronavirus poses a “very high” worldwide danger, according to the World Health Organization. Despite serious concerns about the variant’s potential consequences, nations all across the globe hastened to stop it from spreading, enacting a series of border closures and travel restrictions that harken back to the pandemic’s early days.

New instances of the highly mutated version have been detected in Scotland, Portugal, and Spain, with authorities in eastern Germany reporting an Omicron infection in a 39-year-old afflicted male who had not been outside of Germany.

More nations have imposed travel restrictions, with Japan following Israel and Morocco in prohibiting all foreign visitors, despite experts warning that the scale of the harm presented by Omicron was unclear — and that the patchwork of travel restrictions had so far failed to stem its spread.

Many of the restrictions aimed at catching Omicron, which was discovered last week by South African researchers, were aimed at southern African travelers, prompting accusations that Western countries were discriminating against a region already hampered by vaccine shortages caused by wealthy countries hoarding doses.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said in a statement on Monday that he was “very worried by the isolation of southern African nations” and that he preferred thorough testing to travel restrictions. Mr. Guterres noted that he had “long warned” that low immunization rates in Africa might serve as a breeding ground for new strains.

At a special session of the World Health Assembly on Monday, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra did not directly address the issue, saying that the Biden administration appreciated officials in South Africa “for moving so swiftly and transparently,” and that Washington was “working closely with sister ministries in southern Africa.”

However, South Africa’s health minister, Joe Phaahla, told reporters on Monday that when the two men met the day before, he sent a stern warning to Mr. Becerra. “What you can do is tell your president and government that the travel restrictions aren’t helping us; they’re just complicating matters,” he added.

The World Health Organization advised national authorities to increase monitoring, testing, and immunizations in a technical briefing note to member countries, reiterating the major findings that caused its technical advisors to declare Omicron a “variant of concern” on Friday.

The “large number of mutations” in the version — including up to 32 changes in the spike protein — meant “there might be subsequent surges of Covid-19, which could have serious effects,” according to the CDC.

More information on the variant’s transmissibility and the degree of disease it causes, according to experts such as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a key advisor to President Biden, might take two weeks or more. Scientists think that Omicron’s changes may make it easier for it to spread than previous generations of the virus, but that current vaccinations are likely to protect against severe sickness and death.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the producers of the two most successful vaccines, were poised to reformulate their doses if required. Furthermore, several governments, notably the United Kingdom, were planning to extend booster programs in order to protect more individuals.

The World Health Organization emphasized the need of governments speeding up vaccinations, especially for vulnerable populations and those who are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated. It also urged health officials to step up monitoring and field investigations, including community testing, in order to learn more about Omicron’s features.

The statement emphasized that some nations’ recent efforts to reduce testing and tracking capabilities — as the epidemic looked to be subsiding due to growing vaccination rates — are going in the wrong direction.

“Testing and tracing will continue to be critical in managing this epidemic and really knowing what you’re up against,” said Margaret Harris, a CDC official. “We’re urging all nations to search for this variation, to see whether individuals who have it end up in hospitals and if those who have been completely vaccinated end up in hospitals,” says the WHO.

P.C.R. tests, according to the briefing paper, are an effective tool for discovering the novel variation since they do not need as lengthy of a wait for results as genetic sequencing tests, which require laboratory capacity that is not always accessible.

Ms. Harris added, “It’s extremely fantastic news.” “You can tell who has it a lot quicker.”

While the FDA has previously warned against imposing travel bans, the briefing paper advocated for a “risk-based approach” to travel restrictions, which might include updated testing and quarantine procedures. In the following days, the agency said it will release more specific travel recommendations.

At the same time, member nations of the World Health Organization began a three-day conference of the World Health Assembly to consider a worldwide agreement on how to deal with pandemics, a pact that the organization has long championed to remedy flaws in the Covid-19 response. The European Union has lobbied for a treaty that would mandate more information sharing and vaccination fairness, while the US has attempted to maintain the possibility of a non-binding pact open.





Vaccinations are urged by Biden. Concerns about the Omicron Variant

President Biden described the new Omicron coronavirus variety as “a reason for alarm, not panic,” and encouraged Americans to obtain vaccines and booster doses. In the United States, the variation has yet to be discovered.

I took swift action to limit travel from Southern African nations the day the World Health Organization detected the new variant. However, although travel limitations may decrease Omicron’s pace, they cannot stop it. However, this is what it accomplishes. It buys us time, allowing us to take more steps, move more quickly, and ensure that everyone understands the need of getting their vaccination. You must take the shot. You must get the booster. We’re going to see examples of this new variety in the United States sooner or later. We’ll have to deal with this new danger the same way we dealt with the previous ones. This variety should be taken seriously, but not as a reason for alarm. We have the finest vaccination, the best medications, and the best scientists in the world, and we’re learning more every day. And, rather of turmoil and confusion, we’ll attack this variety with scientific and knowing actions and quickness. If improved vaccines or boosters are required to react to this new variation, we will use every instrument at our disposal to hasten their development and implementation. Dr. Fauci thinks that the existing vaccinations give at least some protection against the new type, and that boosters considerably improve that protection. We do not expect that extra steps will be required, but my team is currently working with authorities from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to build contingency plans for vaccinations or boosters in the event that they are required.

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President Biden described the new Omicron coronavirus variety as “a reason for alarm, not panic,” and encouraged Americans to obtain vaccines and booster doses. In the United States, the variation has yet to be discovered. CreditCredit… The New York Times’ Stefani Reynolds

President Biden attempted to reassure the public on Monday about the new Omicron variation of the coronavirus, saying that the variant is “a reason for worry, not panic,” and that his government is working with vaccine producers to adjust vaccinations and booster doses if required.

Mr. Biden said at the White House, “We’re putting everything we have at this virus, following it from every aspect,” adding, “I’m sparing no effort, eliminating all impediments to keep the American people safe.”

The president is scheduled to visit the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, where he will lay out “a plan for how we’re going to attack Covid this winter, not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccines, boosters, testing, and more,” according to the White House. In the United States, the variation has yet to be discovered.

Mr. Biden has already imposed travel restrictions on eight countries, including South Africa, which analysts believe will allow the US time to decide how to react. However, it would take at least a week, if not two weeks, for specialists to learn more about the new version. It possesses mutations that scientists worry will make it more contagious and resistant to vaccinations, but there is no evidence to back up those predictions.

Despite considerable doubts about the variation itself, such as whether it causes moderate or severe sickness, governments all across the globe have hastened to stop it from spreading, with a wave of border closures and travel restrictions that harken back to the pandemic’s early days.

Mr. Biden was elected on a vow to manage the epidemic, a mission that is proving more difficult than expected. Viruses are devoted to ensure their own life, and the virus that causes Covid-19 is no exception. The Delta version spread throughout the United States just as Mr. Biden was preparing to proclaim “independence from the virus” on the Fourth of July holiday, unleashing another wave of hospitalizations and fatalities.

Now there’s Omicron, a virus identified in southern Africa and declared a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Friday, just in time for the Christmas travel season.

Mr. Biden is attempting to portray calm and prevent panic in the United States while simultaneously ensuring that Americans get vaccinated and adopt other safeguards like as masking and social distance. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, joined him at the White House, saying that existing P.C.R. testing might identify the new variety.

The appearance of the new variety is also putting greater pressure on Vice President Joe Biden and his administration to do more to share vaccinations with the rest of the globe.

According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, South Africa, whose scientists discovered the variation, has only immunized 24 percent of its population. Although it has a higher immunization rate than other African nations, it has urged vaccine manufacturers to cease supplying doses: It’s having problems putting shots into people’s hands, partly due to distribution bottlenecks and partly because to people’s apprehension about taking them.

Vaccination rates are substantially lower elsewhere in Africa, and in certain countries, even health-care personnel have had difficulty receiving their injections. Last week, the World Health Organization found that just 27% of African health professionals were properly immunized.

The Biden administration has vowed to send over a billion vaccine doses to other countries, with 275 million doses already sent to 110 countries. The president said, as he has before, that the US has contributed more dosages than any other country. He pleaded with other world leaders to raise their contributions.

“Now it’s up to the rest of the globe to follow suit,” he continued.

Activists and several global health professionals, on the other hand, claimed the government needed to respond quicker, claiming that vaccination disparities were to blame for the variant’s appearance.

“This is exactly what experts have been predicting would happen,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The extraordinary inequities and gaps between low- and high-income countries creates this massive vulnerability, and it’s going to continue to generate these dangerous variants.” “That point is egregiously clear, and it hurts.”

Dr. Fauci, one of Mr. Biden’s top health advisors, spent most of the holiday weekend meeting with his South African colleagues.

According to a White House statement, Dr. Fauci informed President Obama that learning more about the variant’s transmissibility and severity will take roughly two weeks, but that “he continues to think that current immunizations are likely to give a degree of protection against severe instances” of Covid.

Alexandra E. Petri contributed to this story with her reporting.

On Saturday, Johannesburg residents were tested for the coronavirus. Credit… Associated Press/Jerome Delay

On Monday, South African health authorities warned the public not to be alarmed by the development of the new Omicron coronavirus type, which looks to be responsible for a fresh wave of infections in the nation.

They stated it’s still too early to say if Omicron has a greater rate of transmission or would result in more hospitalizations or severe disease.

“We just don’t have strong, accurate data on the clinical presentation,” said Salim Abdool Karim, a senior epidemiologist and HIV/AIDS researcher who is helping to coordinate the country’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. “However, no red flags have been raised so far.”

Scientists are scrambling to figure out what the Omicron variant’s cluster of mutations means. Mr. Karim believes that by comparing its alterations to those of other “variants of concern” recognized by the World Health Organization, Omicron can be predicted to have increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

Source: Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). The daily average is generated using data from the previous seven days.

According to statistics issued by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, a dramatic surge in the nation’s test positive rate, which increased to over 10% from 1%, sparked anxiety in the country.

According to Michelle Groome, the institute’s director of public health monitoring and response, the surge is mostly due to instances in Gauteng Province, a highly populated economic powerhouse that includes Johannesburg. However, based on the statistics, the number of new cases reported in South Africa is still fewer than in many European nations in terms of population.

According to statistics from the institution, Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital, is at the epicenter of the latest wave, with 219 persons hospitalized with Covid. However, experts are unsure how many of these hospitalizations were caused by Omicron.

While new hospital admissions are still low, Waasila Jassat, a public health expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said there has been a “steep uptick” in the last two weeks.

According to Ms. Jassat, the incidence of deaths has not risen. While new cases were more prevalent among those under the age of 35, hospitalizations were more common among those over the age of 65 and very young children.

Mr. Karim stated that existing coronavirus therapies seemed to be successful against Omicron, while there was not enough evidence on the efficiency of monoclonal antibodies, which are seldom used in South Africa to treat Covid-19.

It’s also too early to say if the variant’s potency requires more stringent safeguards, such as travel prohibitions, according to experts.

Botswana’s health minister, Edwin Dikoloti, claimed in a separate briefing on Sunday that the majority of the 19 Omicron cases found in his nation were “imported,” and that the first four cases were diplomats who had already departed the country.

“Detection was considered as genesis,” he said of early allusions to Omicron as the “Botswana variation.”

New coronavirus cases have been dropping in Botswana, according to Mr. Dikoloti, but “the appearance of this variation” threatened to “undo any achievements that we have achieved over the months.”

On Monday, commuters in London. Masks will be required on public transit and in shops, according to the administration. Credit… through Shutterstock/Andy Rain/EPA

On Monday, the United Kingdom extended its vaccination booster program to all adults, ramping up its reaction to the newly found Omicron coronavirus type.

The government also reported two additional instances of the variation in England, just hours after Scotland said it had discovered six cases and was doing contact tracing. In all, 11 instances have been recorded in the United Kingdom.

Officials in Scotland stated some of the six persons afflicted had not traveled lately, suggesting community transmission in the nation, but that no indication of “sustained or widespread” transmission had been found. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, claimed that all of the affected people are in isolation and that no one has been hospitalized.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stricter mask restrictions and testing procedures for visitors to the United Kingdom over the weekend. While the government has not required the use of vaccination passports or masks in English restaurants or compelled individuals to work from home when feasible, authorities have not ruled out the prospect.

While there is still a lot of ambiguity regarding the variety, Britain’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, says the UK will extend the immunization program immediately soon.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen next,” Mr. Van-Tam said, adding that experts may need weeks to fully comprehend the mutation. “However, there is no time to waste as we wait for the fog to lift on what this alarming variety truly signifies.” It’s our chance to move ahead, and vaccination boosters are the most effective thing we can do while we wait for the mist to clear.”

Source: Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). The daily average is generated using data from the previous seven days.

The British government was heavily chastised for its slow response to the Delta variation earlier this year, but it reacted far more quickly to the Omicron type.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, the UK’s vaccine advisory body, recommended that everyone aged 18 to 39 receive a booster dose; before, only those aged 40 and over were eligible. It shortened the time between the first immunization series and the booster shot from five to three months.

The board also suggested that children aged 12 to 15 get a booster injection, and that those who are critically immunocompromised have a fourth dosage.

Beginning Monday, the Education Department in England has encouraged pupils aged 11 and above to wear face masks in communal spaces.

Ms. Sturgeon and Wales’ leader, Mark Drakeford, wrote to Mr. Johnson demanding that all visitors to the United Kingdom be compelled to undergo a coronavirus test on the second and eighth days following their arrival, as well as to isolate for the whole term. Arrivals will only have to take a test on the second day, according to the most current instructions.

Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Drakeford have also requested that the British government’s top emergency committee, Cobra, convene a joint meeting to better coordinate the reaction to the new variation.

Ms. Sturgeon said there are no plans to impose more limits on regional travel, but that might change.

“I’m still hoping, truly hoping, for a typical Christmas with my family,” she added. “Can I state that with absolute certainty?” No, but that’s what I’m hoping for, and I believe we should all be hoping for.”

Unlike many other European nations, Britain has had minimal restrictions in place since the summer, and the government has said that no more restrictions are planned.

Sajid Javid, the British health minister, reaffirmed this concept in front of Parliament on Monday. “We wouldn’t leave safeguards in place for a day longer than required” if Omicron proved to be “no more harmful” than the Delta form now widespread in Britain, he added.

Megan Specia and Cora Engelbrecht (Megan Specia and Cora Engelbrecht)


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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was “doubling down” on its existing recommendation that all citizens, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public venues. He also expanded the city’s vaccination requirement to include all child-care employees. CreditCredit… Shutterstock/EPA/Jason Szenes

With the Omicron variant of the coronavirus expected to be detected in New York City any day now, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that the city health department’s long-standing recommendation that New Yorkers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks in indoor public settings was being strengthened.

Mr. de Blasio said, “We’re effectively doubling down on it.” “It’s time to re-issue that advice and make it very apparent that this is the prudent course of action at this time.”

Mr. de Blasio stopped short of making masks necessary in all interior public venues, as they are now required on public transportation, in hospitals, and in schools. Indoor eating would resume as before, with visitors needed to have vaccinations, and the city’s preparations for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Times Square would continue.

Everyone should use masks in public indoor settings where community transmission is high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes the whole city of New York as well as its surrounding suburbs.

Separately, Mr. de Blasio said on Monday that New York City’s vaccination requirement will be expanded to include all employees in child care facilities and in the city’s early intervention program, which helps children who are behind in their development. The rule will effect 102,000 employees, who must have had at least one vaccination shot by December 20. Mr. de Blasio said that the mandatory extension had been planned before the new version was discovered.

As authorities throughout the globe awaited evidence on how quickly the Omicron variety spreads, whether it causes more severe disease, and how effectively immunizations defend against it, the mayor and his aides set a cautious but non-alarmist tone. It is yet to be confirmed if there is evidence to back up suspicions of a potential hazard.

In the United States, where the Delta variation is still prevalent, no Omicron instances have been found. To determine which form of the virus a patient has, genetic sequencing is essential; New York City analyzes samples from hundreds of cases each week for this reason.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the top executive of New York City Health and Hospitals, remarked, “Covid is going to be with us for the rest of our lives.” “It’s not going away, and how we learn to live with this infection is all that matters.” And the evidence so far suggests that this variety is not more detrimental in terms of hospitalization or severe disease.”

The case was not referred to the full Supreme Court by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Credit… The New York Times/Erin Schaff

On Monday, Justice Stephen G. Breyer denied an emergency application from employees at a Massachusetts hospital chain who objected to their employer’s request that they be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Justice Breyer did not request a response to the application or refer it to the entire Supreme Court, and he did not provide any justification for his decision. Those were all evidence that he didn’t think the legal issue in the case was important.

The plaintiffs, Mass General Brigham workers, claimed that the hospital chain’s refusal to allow them religious or medical exemptions to the vaccination requirement violated federal anti-discrimination statutes. They requested an injunction to enable them to continue working.

The employees’ motion was unanimously denied by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, who said that an injunction was not the correct remedy. The court said that if the employees were correct, they would be compensated at the completion of their litigation.

Judge Sandra L. Lynch ruled for the panel, “Money damages would properly cure all of the stated losses.” “Moreover, since the vaccination deadline has gone, the appellants cannot use a ‘impossible choice’ as a distinguishing element; they have already made their decisions.”

The Supreme Court has previously dismissed challenges to vaccination mandates brought by Maine health care workers, Indiana University students, and New York City school employees. In New York, two challenges from health-care employees are pending.

A viral epidemic forced the cancellation of a soccer match between Belenenses and Benfica in Portugal over the weekend. Some of the instances were subsequently discovered to be of the Omicron variety. Credit… Shutterstock/Antonio Cotrim/EPA

On Monday, Portugal said that it has found 13 instances of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, all of which were linked to Belenenses, a soccer team that was obliged to play in a top-flight match that was abandoned in the middle of it over the weekend.

The 13 persons were all players or staff members of Belenenses, who played a weakened lineup of just nine players against Benfica on Saturday after reporting a coronavirus epidemic, according to the country’s national health institute.

One of the 13 persons was a footballer who had just returned to Portugal from South Africa and whose scientists assisted in the discovery of Omicron, according to the institution. The players of Benfica will be checked for the virus, according to Graça Freitas, the country’s general health director.

Later that day, Spain reported its first case of the Omicron strain, which was caught by a person who went from South Africa over the weekend. According to the regional administration in Madrid, the patient, a 51-year-old male, has been isolated at the Gregorio Maraón hospital in Madrid since Sunday after a flight from South Africa with a layover in Amsterdam. The individual is only displaying minimal signs of the sickness, according to officials.

Source: Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). The daily average is generated using data from the previous seven days.

Before Saturday’s game, 17 Belenenses players and staff members tested positive for the virus, but it was unclear if those instances contained the new variety at the time. The Belenenses attempted to have the game canceled, but authorities apparently informed them that it had to be played.

Separately, Portugal’s health officials said that they were tracking more than 200 travelers who landed in Portugal from Maputo, Mozambique, on Saturday. At least two persons on the trip tested positive for the virus, but officials said it was too soon to say if these were Omicron instances.

Due to worries about the new variation, Portugal started banning all flights to and from Mozambique, a former Portuguese territory that shares a border with South Africa.

On Monday, people wore masks at the entrance to a mall in Beijing. Credit… Reuters/Thomas Peter

China has rebuffed requests to alter its border controls, which are among the tightest in the world, even before worries about the new Omicron variety surfaced.

Chinese academics are now providing statistics to back up the government’s choice to maintain its harsh “zero Covid” stance.

According to a recent report published on the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Preventative website, China might confront more than 630,000 coronavirus infections each day if it abandons its zero-tolerance prevention policies and loosens travel restrictions, as other Western nations have done.

According to a New York Times database, that is more than five times the total number of cases documented in China, which has a population of 1.4 billion, in the years since the virus initially surfaced in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. According to the paper, which was issued before the World Health Organization designated Omicron as a “variant of concern,” such an epidemic would place a great burden on the country’s resources, especially its medical system.

The results “raised a strong alarm” that the nation was not ready to open up, according to the report’s authors, who are researchers at Beijing’s Peking University.

“Before entry-exit quarantine measures and other Covid-19 response techniques in China can be safely withdrawn, more efficient immunizations or more specialized therapy, ideally a mix of both,” they said.

Despite the fact that China has vaccinated over 75% of its people, issues have been raised concerning the effectiveness of the country’s domestic vaccines.

The Chinese government has put a lot of political capital on being able to handle the virus better than other nations. So far, the method has paid off: China has recorded less than 5,000 fatalities since the epidemic started, and it has been able to rapidly contain rare outbreaks using harsh, though occasionally unworkable, tactics. China reported just 21 locally transmitted cases on Monday, the most of which were in Inner Mongolia’s northern area.

Source: Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE). The daily average is generated using data from the previous seven days.

While some critics have warned that China’s approach could be unsustainable and counterproductive, growing concerns about the new Omicron variant make it even less likely that Beijing will relax its restrictions, which include at least two weeks of mandatory quarantine for visitors, as well as snap lockdowns and mass testing campaigns in areas where the virus has been detected.

One of China’s leading infectious disease specialists, Dr. Zhang Wenhong, said on Sunday that the country’s holistic strategy to battling the virus has put it in a good position to deal with the shifting danger.

Dr. Zhang remarked on Weibo, a prominent Chinese social media network, “If we can live with the Delta variation, we can also cope with Omicron.”

Amy Chang Chien and Amy Qin are Amy Chang Chien and Amy Qin, respectively, Amy Chang Chien and Amy Q

In Durban, South Africa, a laboratory at the Center for AIDS Program Research. Credit… The New York Times/Joao Silva

Scientists hurried on Sunday to collect data on the novel Omicron version, its capabilities, and — perhaps most importantly — how well the existing vaccinations would defend against it as governments cut air connections to southern Africa amid concerns of another worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus.

The preliminary results paint a mixed picture. Experts indicated in interviews that the variety may be more transmissible and better able to avoid the body’s immune responses, both to vaccination and natural infection, than previous generations of the virus.

The immunizations may continue to protect most individuals from serious disease and death, however supplemental doses may be required. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the producers of the two most successful vaccines, are poised to reformulate their doses if required.

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary scientist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said, “We really need to be cautious about this new variety and prepare for it.”

Countries all throughout the globe restricted travel to and from southern Africa, where Omicron was initially discovered, even as scientists started a thorough examination of the new form. Despite the limitations, the virus has been discovered in half a dozen European nations, including the UK, Australia, Israel, and Hong Kong.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that Omicron is responsible for the majority of the 2,300 new daily cases in the Gauteng area of South Africa. New infections have more than quadrupled in the last week throughout the country, and test positive has risen to 9% from 2%.

Scientists have responded to Omicron more swiftly than any other variety. Researchers studied samples from 100 infected individuals in under 36 hours from the first symptoms of problems in South Africa on Tuesday, aggregated the data, and warned the world, according to Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in Durban.

South African scientists hurried to test Covid vaccinations against the new strain within an hour of the initial alert. Hundreds of teams from across the globe have already joined the hunt, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna researchers.

They won’t know the findings for at least two weeks. However, the alterations found in Omicron imply that vaccinations will be less successful, to an unknown extent, than they were against prior variants.

Since his departure from Japan for his home Indonesia, Ayano Hirose has been unable to visit her fiancé in person for the last 19 months. Credit… The New York Times’ Shiho Fukada

Japan used a similar technique when it announced on Monday that its borders will be closed to all tourists. Even when the rest of the globe began to travel again after the coronavirus outbreak, the government has blocked travelers.

Despite having the greatest vaccination rate among the world’s big rich democracies and seeing its coronavirus caseloads drop by 99 percent since August, it had just tentatively opened to business visitors and students this month.

Japan now presents a sobering case study of the human and economic costs of closed borders as the doors slam shut once again. Thousands of life plans have been put on hold during Japan’s prolonged isolation, placing couples, students, academic researchers, and employees in uncertainty.

Ayano Hirose hasn’t seen her fiancé, Dery Nanda Prayoga, in person in 19 months, since he departed Japan for his home Indonesia only two weeks after her parents gave their blessing to their wedding preparations. The pair has been making do with daily video conversations. They play billiards on Facebook Messenger or watch Japanese variety programs together online when they run out of topics to speak about.

Ms. Hirose, 21, who has submitted letters to the foreign and justice ministries requesting an exception to enable Mr. Dery to visit Japan, said, “We don’t want to suffer in sorrow at the notion of not being able to rejoin in the near future.” “As a result, we’ll continue to think optimistically and hope.”

Hikari Hida and Motoko Rich

On Sunday, Czech President Milos Zeman, right, installs Petr Fiala as Czech Prime Minister at the Lany Manor mansion outside Prague, Czech Republic, separated by a glass wall after testing positive for the coronavirus. Credit… Vondrous Roman took this shot of the pool.

While sitting inside a glass cube, Czech President Milos Zeman, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, nominated the country’s new prime minister on Sunday.

Mr. Zeman, 77, was released from a Prague hospital on Saturday and is presently undergoing isolation. In order to appoint Petr Fiala as prime minister, he slid into the transparent box in a wheelchair, pushed by a worker wearing a complete protective gear. He was supposed to take that step on Friday, but it was postponed when he tested positive.

The sight of a global leader locked inside a cube two years ago could have been reason for concern, but the event went on as usual on Sunday, with the other participants veiled and wandering freely about the room. Mr. Fiala and the other speakers talked into a microphone aimed towards the cube, while Mr. Zeman spoke into another microphone from within.

Mr. Zeman’s health has been a subject of anxiety and suspicion across the nation; he suffers from diabetes and neuropathy in his legs, forcing him to use a wheelchair in April. He was admitted to the hospital in October, but the administration provided little information about his medical condition.

He was released from the hospital on Thursday after six weeks of treatment, only to be readmitted hours later after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Czech Republic, like most of Europe, is seeing an outbreak of the virus, with roughly 28,000 new cases confirmed on Friday. According to Our World In Data, almost 59 percent of the population has been completely immunized.

Several other foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and former US President Donald J. Trump, have acquired the coronavirus in the previous two years and recovered following hospital stays.

Passengers departed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday, the day the Israeli government agreed to impose a two-week embargo on all international arrivals due to the Omicron virus type. Credit… Shutterstock, Abir Sultan/EPA

The Israeli domestic intelligence agency has been allowed temporary access to the phone records of persons who have been diagnosed with the Omicron coronavirus strain in order to find out who they recently met. During previous pandemic waves, the agency was granted comparable powers.

The Israeli government decided on Sunday to allow the Shin Bet spy agency to follow Omicron sufferers’ phones until the end of the day on Thursday, but not to access the phone data of persons afflicted with other types of the coronavirus, citing emergency law.

According to a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Parliament is scheduled to vote this week on new legislation that will prolong the permit for another two weeks and enable it to be extended every two weeks after that.

The government and its allies said that the decision was required to immediately identify suspected virus carriers who needed to be tested and confined in order to stop the new variety from spreading.

Limor Yehuda, a criminology professor, said in Maariv, a centrist daily, on Monday that “we have definitely reached a stage where we do need a ‘Big Brother’ keeping watch of where we go.”

Critics said the action violated civil freedoms and was in violation of a Supreme Court ruling from March. The agency may only utilize phone data in this manner to follow those who failed to cooperate with contact-tracing procedures, the court determined at the time.

On Monday, rights lawyer Gil Gan-Mor wrote in Maariv, “No other democratic nation has opted to utilize its security agency to follow citizens.” He went on to say that renewing Shin Bet monitoring was a “bad, unlawful choice.”

Human trackers, rather than the Shin Bet surveillance program, were used to find the vast majority of coronavirus cases during an earlier wave of the epidemic, according to official statistics.

The experience of a government-wide coronavirus “war scenario” earlier in November affected other aspects of Israel’s reaction to the Omicron strain. Senior government officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, participated in the simulation, which assessed possible reactions to a hypothetical new coronavirus strain.

Mr. Bennett’s spokesperson, Keren Hajioff, claimed that the participants understood during the drill’s latter phases that they should have closed borders far sooner. “Those insights were taken into consideration” when Israel’s borders were closed to foreign travelers on Saturday night, Ms. Hajioff said, shortly after the finding of the Omicron version was publicized.

Some travelers arriving on planes from South Africa are being held in quarantine at a hotel in the Netherlands after testing positive for the coronavirus. Credit… Associated Press/Peter Dejong

On Sunday, Dutch military police detained a couple who were preparing to fly out of the country when they were meant to be quarantined. According to the authorities, one of the two had tested positive for the coronavirus two days before to their arrival from South Africa.

According to Dutch news outlets, the married pair — the husband is Spanish and the lady is Portuguese — had left a quarantine hotel and were about to board an aircraft at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport when they were apprehended. The jet was on its way to Spain.

On Monday, Marianne Schuurmans, a local mayor and leader of the safety area that encompasses the airport, said the pair was being held in isolation at a hospital.

According to Ms. Schuurmans, the authorities did not expect anybody to violate the quarantine after testing positive. “It astounded us that people don’t take this seriously,” she said.

61 persons tested positive for the coronavirus among the 600 passengers on two planes from South Africa that arrived in the Netherlands on Friday morning. Officials advised those affected to quarantine at a designated hotel or at home.

According to Dutch public health authorities, scientists discovered that at least 13 of individuals who had positive tests had the Omicron variation after sequencing the positive tests, and that number is anticipated to rise.

According to Stephanie Nolen, a writer for The New York Times who was on one of the aircraft, passengers from those flights — both negative and positive — spent nearly 30 hours together on the plane and in poorly ventilated rooms at the airport. While those who were sick were urged to isolate, those who tested negative were permitted to continue their journey or return home despite their exposure.

Increasing ticket and concession costs, as well as the run-down status of shopping malls, which house many theaters, are among the things driving crowds away. Credit… The New York Times’ Philip Cheung

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Around 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers had stopped purchasing tickets. Some of them, around 8%, are likely to be lost forever. To reclaim the remaining customers, multiplex owners must “urgently” reconsider price and consumer benefits, as well as emphasis on coronavirus safety.

These were some of the findings of a recent research on the condition of the American movie theater industry, which was already struggling before to the pandemic — attendance was decreasing, and streaming services were spreading — and has yet to recover from the coronavirus-forced closures in 2020. Ticket sales in the United States and Canada were at $96 million during the weekend, compared to $181 million in the same time last year.

The Quorum, a film research company led by David Herrin, the former head of research for United Talent Agency, Cultique, a consultancy run by longtime brand strategist Linda Ong, and Fanthropology, a research, strategy, and creative agency, self-commissioned the study, which was published online on Monday. They plan to conduct the poll every three months.

“The evidence definitely reveals that theaters are suffering,” Ms. Ong said, “because the epidemic increased, accelerated, and magnified all of the emerging patterns that were already ongoing.” “That is what a perfect storm is – not that several issues occur at the same time, but that they have a compounding impact on one another.”

What are the emerging trends? Ticket and concession costs are increasing. Reduced “experiential value,” such as the impression that going to the movies has become a chore. The deterioration of shopping malls, which include a large number of theaters. A generational shift toward smartphone-based entertainment like streaming and gaming. “Perhaps you went once in a while before, neglecting the disadvantages,” Mr. Herrin replied. “Throw in some safety worries, and you’ve got yourself a former moviegoer.”

A total of 2,528 persons who attended a movie theater in 2019 were polled by the research firms. (Some people went once a week, while others only went once a month.) Others visited “many” times each year.) About 51% of those polled indicated they had purchased tickets in the last few months, with some being enticed by rewards programs offered by movie theater chains. According to Mr. Herrin, they are mostly white guys between the ages of 25 and 45 who reside in cities. “Once you leave that demographic, you start to lose a lot of people,” he added.

The 49% who said they were no longer purchasing tickets were more inclined to support a vaccination requirement for attendance. Mr. Herrin noted that this group, which was primarily female, was likewise more concerned about pricing and value. Despite this, he said that nearly a third were “optimistic” about returning to cinemas at some time in the future. Lower costs for traditional snacks, newer seats, and monitoring the use of phones during movies are among the measures most likely to entice people back.

Mr. Herrin said, “There must be a feeling of urgency.” “I’m not sure how broad a window there is for exhibition to bring these folks back,” he continued, referring to the multiplex industry in Hollywood lingo.

Lower-income customers are the “likely losers,” as the report finds 8% of respondents who stated they didn’t buy a ticket during the epidemic and don’t see themselves returning. According to the study, the group features a high number of Hispanic, Black, and Asian women.

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