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Omicron COVID-19 variant halts international flights

Travelers line up for the last flights out of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday as European countries cancel inbound flights from the nation. Associated Press/Photo by Jerome Delay

Omicron COVID-19 variant halts international flights

The United States announced Friday it will restrict flights from South Africa and seven other African countries in response to a new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, that scientists have discovered spreading rapidly throughout the population of South Africa and its neighbors. U.S. citizens and legal residents will be allowed to return home as long as they show a negative COVID-19 test. The United Kingdom, Austria, France, Italy, and other European countries also imposed flight bans from South Africa and other African countries, and Hong Kong, Israel, Australia, Canada, and Belgium have reported their own positive cases of the new strain. U.S. stocks fell on Friday morning following news of European flight restrictions. The Dow Jones dropped 900 points, and the S&P 500 fell 1.5 percent. Investors started moving money into companies that profited from previous COVID-19 waves, such as Zoom and Peloton.

What is the variant? A WHO technical advisory group that met on Friday declared the variant coronavirus strain to be “of concern” based on early evidence that it poses a higher reinfection risk than delta. The WHO named it for the Greek letter omicron. Scientists said the strain has up to 30 mutations in its spike protein, affecting transmissibility and possibly vaccine effectiveness. BioNTech, a partner with Pfizer in vaccine development, has already started to test the variant. Omicron has spread rapidly among young people in South Africa. The daily average of new coronavirus cases in the country reached 2,465 as of Thursday, up from 200 last week, presumably due to the new strain.

Dig deeper: Read my report in The Sift about protests in Europe over the latest vaccine mandates and pandemic lockdowns.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Harrisburg, Pa.



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The variant didn’t halt travel. Countries responded to the variant by halting travel. Important distinction, to realize that we are making choices not being forced to halt travel or make another responses. It is a choice.


Hey World- we see that you mention that Pfizer is checking to see if the vaccine will work on the new variant, but no mention if anyone is checking to see if drug therapies are being checked against the new variant. Ignoring that is very mainstream of you.


Are they ignoring it? How do you know? Maybe there is no report of other pharmaceutical companies to add to this article. Why accuse World, of being "mainstream"? Go research it yourself...


I have tried to read every article that World has printed on the subject of covid. May have missed a couple. But every article on covid should mention drug therapies. Why ? Because they work and for whatever reason they are not being talked about or worse. For this reason I threw the jab at World for being "mainstream".
As for researching it I live in an area that was an absolute hot bed of covid and death. People died by the hundreds and not "died of covid with 3 gunshot wounds" type deaths, but legit, fairly healthy one week and dead two weeks later. In the midst of that a local Dr. treated 7000 patients and only lost 3 (the 3 came to him in advanced state of illness). This caused me to read the studies that said otherwise and many of them are specious. One was so bad it makes you wonder why it was even done and who would have paid for such rubbish.
The mainstream media touts them all which also makes me suspicious. I expect more from World because I know they defend life and freedom, but World for whatever reason has gone MIA.
By the way I am not anti-vacc. I by thousand of dollars in vaccines every year and could not function without them.


This is pure speculation, but for the therapeutics that target general replication mechanisms for RNA viruses, I would imagine that they would work just about as well on the new variants as they work for the original strain of covid. The vaccines target very specific parts of the virus which make them extremely effective for variants that match that part, but perhaps not so much for variants that are wildly different. It's to be expected that variants will emerge that escape immunity - the hope is that the phenomenon of muller's ratchet will cause those variants to trade immunity escape for deadliness.