On the Omicron variant

New Omicron variant could spell end for Covid-19 pandemic – top Russian scientist

30 Nov, 2021
A new mutant strain of Covid-19 that has sparked fears for vaccine resistance, caused flight cancellations, and sent the stock market plummeting could actually help bring the pandemic to an end, a Russian virologist has claimed.
In an interview published on Monday in Moscow tabloid KP, Anatoly Altshtein, a virologist at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which pioneered Russia’s Sputnik V jab, said that there it is still not clear how deadly or infectious the new Omicron variant might be. According to him, even if it does spread faster than its predecessor, known as Delta, it could take months to become the predominant form of the virus.
Even if that happens, he said, it’s not clear that Omicron means higher death tolls than at present. “Right now there are reasons to think that the Omicron variant could be less pathogenic,” he went on, meaning less able to cause harmful infection.
Continue reading at www.rt.com

African leaders condemn travel restrictions as omicron variant spreads globally

November 30, 2021
African leaders are pushing back on travel bans imposed by wealthy or Western nations in an effort to stop the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant — and expressing their anger that the result of South Africa’s openness in sharing news of the variant has led to what they see as punitive measures.
The variant was detected last week in Botswana and South Africa, and since then it’s been found in countries across the globe from Scotland to Canada. It’s still unclear where the latest known strain originated.
Yet the travel restrictions specifically target nations in southern Africa. This prompted blowback this week from African leaders and public health officials, who say the bans will do more harm than good and discriminate against countries in the region.
Continue reading at www.npr.org

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WHO chief: Omicron backlash against Africa shows why world needs pandemic treaty

November 29, 2021
It’s time for a new pandemic treaty, the chief of the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant amid vaccine inequity and the rapid imposition of travel bans on southern African nations “demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics,” said WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a special session of the World Health Assembly.
Countries are gathering at the session where they will agree to start negotiations on a pandemic treaty. There was concern that opposition from the U.S. and several other countries to the agreement being legally binding, could have forestalled an agreement. However, on Sunday, countries reached consensus on a compromise text that will be adopted during the ongoing World Health Assembly.
Continue at www.politico.eu

Rights groups petition Israel’s top court over Omicron phone tracking

Rights groups petitioned Israel’s top court on Monday to repeal new COVID-19 measures that authorise the country’s domestic intelligence service to use counter-terrorism phone tracking technology to contain the spread of the Omicron virus variant.
Announcing the emergency measures on Saturday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the phone tracking would be used to locate carriers of the new and potentially more contagious variant in order to curb its transmission to others.
Israeli rights groups say the emergency measures violate previous Supreme Court rulings over such surveillance, used on-and-off by the country’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency since March, 2020.
Continue reading at www.reuters.com

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