Biden imposes travel ban as WHO meets over new COVID strain

Joe Biden on Friday imposed a new travel ban as the World Health Organization met to talk over a new strain of COVID-19.

The Washington Examiner reported the WHO was monitoring a variant of coronavirus that was detected in South Africa.

This one was labeled B.1.1.529.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, of WHO.

The Examiner said the variant apparently displays an “unusual constellation of mutations.”

And in a media briefing, Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, said there appear to be 50 mutations overall, with 30 in the spike protection.

The European Union, the United Kingdom and Israel immediately announced travel bans to and from several African nations even though WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that wasn’t advisable. The WHO warned against what it called “knee-jerk responses.’

CNBC said Biden’s response was to restrict travel for non-U.S. citizens “from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday.”

Those other nations include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Officials in the White House said Biden was briefed on the new circumstance on Friday, and he decided on the new ban, which comes not even three weeks after he lifted pandemic travel restrictions on those coming to the U.S. from 30 countries.

The report said the concern for health experts is the transmissibility of the “omicron” variant.

Fox News report WHO explained, “The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on [Nov. 24, 2021]. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on [Nov. 9, 2021].”

The World Health Organization has been watched by many with suspicion since it apparently allowed Chinese officials to suppress information about the original outbreak of COVID-19 that first was noticed nearly two years ago.

Now, the organization said of the new threat, “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.”

WHO told nations they must increase “surveillance” of problems.

“Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving [the] ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated,” the organization said.

Other variants, such as alpha, beta and delta, have been shown to spread more easily than the original and make current treatment shots less effective.

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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