Washington: G7 health ministers on Monday called for “urgent action” to combat the newly identified Omicron Covid-19 variant spreading across the world as US President Joe Biden said the strain is “not a cause for panic”.
Australia and Japan led the growing list of countries imposing fresh travel restrictions or slamming shut their borders as the new strain identified last week spreads rapidly to Europe, Asia, and North America.
However, Biden told Americans he did not foresee new lockdowns or extending travel restrictions for now because of Omicron.
While no deaths have yet been reported from Omicron, and it remains unclear how infectious and how resistant the strain may prove to vaccines, its emergence underscores how besieged the world remains by Covid-19, nearly two years after the first cases were recorded.
Many governments, particularly in western Europe, had already struggled with rapid rises in cases and have reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews, or lockdowns — leaving businesses fearing another grim Christmas.
Following emergency talks, G7 health ministers said “the global community is faced with the threat of a new, at a first evaluation, highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, which requires urgent action.”
The World Health Organization said the overall risk from Omicron was “very high” and warned that any major surge would put pressure on health systems and cause more deaths.
Omicron has prompted some countries to tighten border controls.