New virus variant threat brings back travel restrictions from 8 African countries

The United States recently started allowing international visitors to countries, but a new variant of COVID-19 has already put travel restrictions back in place.

Omnicron, who is believed to be from South Africa, has prompted President Joe Biden to impose travel restrictions for eight countries in southern Africa.

Dr John Zaso, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Health, says this is a highly evolved mutation that could be much more contagious.

It’s unclear exactly how the current vaccines work against the new strain, but Zaso says their effectiveness may decline.

“If you think of the spikes protest as a wrench, what happens is you have a lot of teeth on a wrench,” says Zaso. “Sometimes a tooth can be a little loose or flat and it can still work. When you have a 30-mutation spike protein, that’s a whole new key.”

Robert and Melissa Silverstein were planning a trip to Aruba, but changed their minds because of the new variant.

“It’s scary,” says Robert Silverstein. “But it’s just something we need to know more about.”

News of the new variant also caused stocks to plummet after the holidays as scientists seek to find out more about it.

Zaso says it is not yet known if there is an increase in Omnicron disease, but he says it is “probably” very contagious compared to other strains.

Travel restrictions begin Monday. They do not apply to citizens of the United States or permanent residents, but traveling to this part of the world is not recommended.


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