Stocks tumbled Friday amid fears of travel restrictions after the World Health Organization announced the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, commented on it during an interview on CNN.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about the #COVID19 variant B.1.1.529.
They advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern.
WHO has named it Omicron, in line with naming protocols https://t.co/bSbVas9yds pic.twitter.com/Gev1zIt1Ek
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 26, 2021
The variant, which officials say has many more mutations than previous strains, also has been seen in Israel.
The WHO announced the discovery of the new variant on Thursday and claimed it has the potential to evade antibodies.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 25, 2021
Global health officials on Friday went into action and attempted to calm fears about international travel restrictions, Reuters reported. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier, for example, told members of the United Nations in Geneva that talks of limiting travel were premature.
“At this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against,” Lindmeier said. “The WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also spoke about the potential of the new variant to affect the U.S. population.
“Obviously as soon as we find out more information, we’ll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can,” he said Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day.” “You always put these things on the table, but you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it.”
He said the new variant “has some mutations that are raising some concern, particularly with regard to possibly transmissibility increase and possibly evasion of immune response.”
The US must find out if its vaccines respond to the new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa before considering a travel ban, Dr. Fauci says.
“You’re prepared to do everything … to protect the American public. But you want to make sure there’s basis for doing that.” pic.twitter.com/3hVcGytnt8
— New Day (@NewDay) November 26, 2021
Fauci said U.S. scientists would work quickly to study the virus and determine if travel restrictions should be considered.
“This is really something that’s in motion,” he said. “And we just arranged, right now, a discussion between our scientists and the South African scientists a little bit later in the morning to really get the facts because you’re hearing a lot of things back and forth.”
“There were some cases that originated in South Africa and that went to Botswana and people who traveled and found out they were infected and one that had gone, actually, to Hong Kong. So there’s a lot of travel,” Fauci said.
“You never know exactly where, and that’s the reason why we’re getting together [with] them to try and get the precise molecular makeup of it, so you could actually test for it. And that’s something that will take a little bit, to put the appropriate materials together to do that. But we are in very active communication with our South African colleague scientists.”
Fauci, equating the new variant to a “red flag,” also urged people to get vaccinated and to seek booster shots.
After his comments, Belgian officials announced the discovery of B.1.1.529 there, meaning the variant had arrived in Europe.
Belgium becomes the first European country to confirm a case of the B.1.1.529 coronavirus variant. Follow live updates on the global response to the new strain: https://t.co/Aj8xE0Qz9j
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) November 26, 2021
Stocks tumbled on Black Friday as investors were spooked by the potential for more restrictions.
The Dow Jones was at one point down more between 900 and 1,000 points, or roughly 2.5 percent. Other indexes also slumped following the news.
The S&P 500 was down around 100 points, or about two percent, while the Nasdaq also took a nearly 300-point dip that was good for about a 3 percent loss.
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