South African health authorities’ discovery of a new, potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant has sparked a global response. A number of countries have banned travelers from several southern African countries. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization named the newly identified coronavirus variant – B.1.1.529 – as a variant of concern. The variant has been given the name Omicron.
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The newly identified variant has also been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong, and Belgium. It appears to be causing rapid spread in parts of South Africa. The unusual number of mutations in this disease could result in it being more transmissible and immune evading. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the risk of the new variant spreading throughout Europe is “high to very high.”