The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a new coronavirus variant (B.1.1.529) to be “of concern” and named it Omicron. The WHO added that a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggest an increased reinfection risk. Omicron was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on 24 November, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. A number of countries around the world have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa. Travelers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini will not be able to enter the UK unless they are UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents. US officials say flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi may, and likely will, be blocked, mirroring earlier moves taken by the EU.

Vaccine manufacturers have let known that they are taking this variant very seriously in that it displays, according to South African scientific authorities, over 30 mutations. They are aggressively looking at any impact on current vaccines and looking to potentially adjust to the new variant.