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The new COVID-19 variant, formerly known as B.1.1.529, is now known as Omicron. It was first discovered in South Africa followed by Botswana.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the strain to be a variant of concern after meeting with local health authorities.

eNCA reports that the WHO said it could take several weeks to complete studies of Omicron to see if there are any changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

So far, several countries have banned visitors from southern Africa due to Omicron.

The United Kingdom has banned South Africa, Lesotho, eSwatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. While the United States has also added Malawi to the list.

News24 reports that New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the state and the threat of the Omicron variant. She said the variant hasn’t yet been detected in the state but that she decided to sign an executive order to allow the health department to limit non-essential, non-urgent procedures at hospital and acquire critical supplies more quickly.

The island nations of Mauritius and Seychelles have also imposed an immediate ban on travellers from the southern African countries.

Image credit: WFLA

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