New Omicron Variant to Affect Markets
Concerns about the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus increased today after the first case was detected in the United States. The Bank of Japan is moving to warn the economy as many countries begin to respond with stricter containment measures.
The first known case in the United States was a fully vaccinated person in California who returned to the United States from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive seven days later.
President Joe Biden is working on the US strategy to combat COVID-19 this winter and multiple sources believe there will be a requirement for travelers to wear masks through mid-March. The official announcement could be on Thursday. In addition, the White House also plans to announce other strict screening rules for international visitors.
There are still many unknowns about the new variant given its rapid spread. The variant, though first found on 8 November in South Africa, has now spread to at least two dozen countries in just 3 weeks.
Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Wednesday said it could take another two weeks or more to gain insight into how easily the variant spreads and how severe it is, the severity of the disease it causes, and whether it is resistant to existing vaccines.
South Africa's National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD) says initial epidemiological data suggests that Omicron may ward off some immunity but existing vaccines must still protect against the disease, severity, and death.
World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove told a news conference that data would be reported "within days" on Omicron's ability to spread.
BioNTech's CEO said the vaccine, which the company has partnered with Pfizer (PFE.N), has the potential to provide strong protection against serious disease from Omicron.
Early signs that Omicron may be more contagious than previous variants have rocked financial markets.
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