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WHO names new Covid-19 Variant ‘Omicron’

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The new variant of Covid-19 recently discovered by South African scientists have been renamed ‘Omnicron’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The world health body said in a statement on Friday that the “recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19 is to be a variant of great concern, hence renaming it Omicron.”

“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology, the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern, named Omicron,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

In the interim, EU officials have been holding emergency meetings over the variant and agreed to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from regions where the strain is likely to mutate faster.

“Member States agreed to introduce rapidly restrictions on all travel into the EU from seven countries in the Southern Africa region: Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer tweeted.

Read also: Only 27% of health workers in Africa vaccinated for COVID-19 – WHO

“This is not a formal decision but a recommendation. It is up to each member state to take its own decisions,” an EU official.

Many EU member states had already gone ahead with flight suspensions from some or all of the seven African countries while others are expected to follow suit over coming days.

Another EU official said diplomats and officials meeting in Brussels under the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) mechanism opted to emphasise “restrictions” over travel suspensions.

That is because EU citizens and residents were allowed to return to their home countries, though will likely face PCR tests and quarantine on arrival while non-EU citizens and residents would be barred from travelling into the EU under the agreed recommendation.

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