From CNN: US announces travel restrictions over new Covid-19 variant
The new travel restrictions announced by President Biden today will buy the US federal government more time to investigate the new Omicron variant that has emerged in South Africa, officials say. But not much.
Earlier today, the Biden administration announced it will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, starting Monday. The administration stressed it was acting on advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the World Health Organization labeled the newly discovered strain as a "variant of concern."
Inside the government, it is seen as inevitable that the new variant will appear in the US at some point, but the new restrictions should give federal health agencies and their global counterparts more time to learn about the variant, including the severity of the disease it causes. Officials do not believe, based on current thinking, that the variant is in the US yet.
Officials acted quickly to implement the new restrictions. While the emergency of the variant had been flagged in the last several weeks, it was only in recent days that they learned how serious it was.
And this, also from CNN:
Vaccine maker Moderna says the new Omicron variant represents a "significant potential risk" to the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine as well as immunity reached naturally.
"The recently described Omicron variant includes mutations seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape," Moderna said Friday in a news release.
"The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity," the company said. The company said it is working rapidly to test the ability of its vaccine to neutralize the new variant and data is expected in the coming weeks.
If the current vaccine and the current booster dose of the vaccine are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which Moderna said it is testing.
The company is also evaluating two multi-valent booster candidates to see if they provide superior protection against Omicron. Both candidates include some of the viral mutations present in the new variant.
“We have three lines of defense that we are advancing in parallel,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in the release. "The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant."