Today is Monday, November 29, 2021. Let’s catch up.
A wary, tired world slams its doors on a new option
On Monday, countries around the world sought to keep the new version of the omicron with travel bans and additional restrictions, even though it remains unclear what it means for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan has announced that it is suspending entry of all foreign visitors, while new cases of the variant, identified a few days ago by South African researchers, have even surfaced in Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some of these infections could be among the first reported cases of local transmission of this variant outside southern Africa.
The flood of new cases has shown that it is almost impossible to keep the genie in a bottle in the globalized world of travel and open borders.
Yet many have tried to do just that, even against the urging of the World Health Organization, which noted that border closures often have limited effects, but can damage lives and livelihoods. Some have argued that such restrictions could provide valuable time to analyze a new option. Little is known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness, or more likely to elude vaccine defenses.
The United States has been banning entry from South Africa and seven other South African countries since Monday. “This will give us time to increase our preparedness,” said chief US expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of ABC’s This Week’s ban.