Omicron Global surge could have severe consequences: COVID updates

TheFirst discovered the omicron variant in South AfricaThe news of the last week is likely spread rapidly around the globe, possibly with serious consequences. World Health OrganizationBeware Monday.

“ThereFuture COVID-19 increases could occur, which could have devastating consequences depending on a variety of factors, including where the surges might take place,” said the WHO in a technical brief.The overall global risk related to the (omicron variant) is assessed as very high.”

The WHO said there is currently no information to suggest symptoms associated with omicron differ from those associated with other variants. NoWHO stated that deaths related to the Omicron variant of the virus have been reported.

The U.S. will need about two more weeks to learn more definitive information about the omicron variant’s transmissibility and severity, Dr. Anthony FauciTelled President Joe BidenOn SundayThe White HouseIn a statement The variant already has been identified in countries across the world, including France, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. 

Despite the unknowns of omicron, Fauci told Biden that he believes “existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID,” reiterating that booster shots on top of full vaccination will provide stronger protection. About 36% of Americans have gotten their booster shots, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said last week.

Also in the news:

►”Vaccine” is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2021: “The biggest science story of our time quickly became the biggest debate in our country, the word at the center of both stories is vaccine.”

►Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said it’s “unacceptable” for some countries to vaccinate groups at very low risk of severe disease and give boosters to healthy adults while just one in four African health workers has been vaccinated. 

►The Virginia Department of Health will be monitoring sewage in an effort to predict future outbreaks of COVID-19. Infected people shed the virus in bodily waste, even if they’re not showing symptoms. The goal is to provide warnings before a surge begins.

► Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said Monday that six cases of the omicron variant have been detected there. “Enhanced” contact tracing was underway.

►The World Health Organization urged countries not to impose flight bans on southern African nations: “South Africa should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalized.” The U.S. on Monday began restricting travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 776,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 261 million cases and nearly 5.1 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans — roughly 59.1% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: After nearly two years of combating COVID-19, health experts thought the U.S. would have been in a better position to control the pandemic. Instead, many people remain unvaccinated and ignore mitigation measures, slowing the pace of progress and burning out health care professionals. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group. 

WHO gathers for special session discussing new rules for outbreaks

The World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly began a special session Monday to discuss a new global treaty for responding to future pandemics. The special session, just the second in the history of the WHO, will last until Wednesday. The session is geared toward establishing a process to draft agreements “on pandemic preparedness and response,” according to a news release from the organization. TedrosTelled the gathering the international response to the pandemic has been slow and uncoordinated.

“Omicron’s very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we are done with COVID-19, it is not done with us,” Tedros said. “We are living through a cycle of panic and neglect. Hard-won gains could vanish in an instant.”

Omicron variant identified in more countries across the globe

CasesThe omicron variantThis is the coronavirus popped up in countries on opposite sides of the world Sunday as many governments rushed to close their borders. Japan announced it would suspend entry of all foreign visitors hours after Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners. Morocco it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday — among a growing raft of travel curbs being imposed by nations around the world as they scrambled to slow the variant’s spread. ScientistsIn many places, starting at Hong KongTo EuropeSince then, it has been confirmed by. South AfricaIt was announced last week. 

“This time the world showed it is learning,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, singling out South African President Cyril RamaphosaFor praise. “South Africa’s analytic work and transparency and sharing its results was indispensable in allowing a swift global response. It no doubt saved many lives.”

Canada’s health minister says the country’s first two cases of omicron were found in OntarioTwo individuals recently returned from a trip to NigeriaPositive.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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