World on alert as UK reports cases of omicron COVID variant
LONDON (AP) — Britain became the latest country Saturday to report cases of the new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus as governments around the world sought to shore up their defenses by slapping restrictions on travel from nations in southern Africa.
Amid fears that the recently identified new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will persist for far longer than hoped.
U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that two people have tested positive with the omicron variant in the southeastern English town of Chelmsford and in the central city of Nottingham. He said the cases were linked and related to travel from southern Africa.
Javid said the two confirmed cases are self-isolating alongside their households while contact tracing and targeted testing takes place. He also added four more countries — Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia — onto the country's travel red list from Sunday. Six others — Botswana, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe — were added Friday. That means anyone permitted to arrive from those destinations will have to quarantine.
“This is a real reminder that this pandemic is far from over,” he said. “If we need to take further action, we will.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with his top advisers, will be holding a media briefing later Saturday.
Many countries have slapped restrictions on various southern African countries over the past couple of days including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissability of the new variant — against the...