Asia-Pacific countries should boost their healthcare capacity and fully vaccinate their people to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The number of countries detecting the Omicron variant is “increasing daily”, the WHO says.
Its geographic distribution is “likely already wider than currently reported” and nations must prepare for potential new surges
But scientists say it’s still too early to say if the variant causes more serious illness.
The US has meanwhile unveiled stricter travel rules after confirming a handful of Omicron cases.
Separately, a UK trial of seven different jabs finds that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines give the best overall booster response
And a review finds the risk of catching Covid remains higher for people belonging to certain ethnic groups.
The UK reported a further 53,945 confirmed Covid cases on Thursday
The World Health Organization has earlier warned that the global risk from Omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence. It further said it could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
The new variant was first identified in Botswana, before it rapidly outcompeting other versions of the virus in the region of South Africa that includes Johannesburg.
A health official calls it “the most significant variant” to date, but the UK didn’t confirm any cases to date.
“It is bad news, but it’s not doomsday,” an Oxford scientist tells the BBC.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the UK is taking a “safety-first approach” in regard to the travel ban.
Nine countries including Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore have also restricted travel.
The World Health Organization will hold a special meeting later today to discuss the variant.