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President Biden is restricting travel from South Africa and 7 other African countries due to a new variant of COVID – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – After millions of families have gathered for the holidays, a new COVID-19 variant is operating on another continent. The variant is also causing changes in international travel.

As of Monday, the US will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African countries. Officials say it was a decision made out of great caution, but the concern is real.

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It was enough to bring the Dow down more than 1,000 points today. Both the S&P and the NASDAQ fell over 2 percent.

CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra gets Cook County’s perspective on this new threat.

If it feels like the news about this new twist came out of nowhere overnight, it’s because.

B11529 was found in South Africa and for the past eight hours we have watched the world change as a result.

Here at home, doctors say, it pays to be careful.

“We didn’t know that this particular variant was on the horizon.”

An overnight miracle for doctors here and around the world. After COVID cases doubled in one day in Johannesburg, South African officials announced the discovery of a new variant on Thursday. Dr. Rachel Rubin of the Cook County’s Department of Public Health says it wasn’t a shock.

“We’re not surprised that a new variant has hit the market, we were expected to see new variants,” she said.

But the composition of this strain is surprising. On Friday afternoon, the World Health Organization named it Omicron, naming it a worrying variant due to a large number of mutations that put an increased risk of re-infection.

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“That suggests we may see more breakthrough cases.”

That triggered an action here in the USA

“It’s in a flowing motion. We find more about it and literally, it’s something in real time, we keep learning more about it. “

Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Covid Response Team briefed the President, who ordered air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries from Monday. There is much to be done for a still very mysterious strain.

“There’s no way of knowing if it’s still there, but we’ll know soon or if it will spread,” said Rubin.

Dr. Rubin says research will answer these questions in the coming weeks. The Delta variant is now spreading further in Chicago. She says a vaccination or booster is the best fight against this variant. Masking and spacing should be maintained while we wait to learn about the next one.

“That’s why these other things we do to protect ourselves apart from vaccines are becoming so much more important,” said Rubin.

The race is on to see if any of the current vaccines will work against this new strain.

Both Moderna and Pfizer say it will take a few weeks to know if the doses against Omicron are effective.

Since much of the African continent does not have equal access to vaccines, this is a factor.

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In his statement on Friday, President Biden urged other countries to donate as many vaccines as the United States. He also wants the intellectual property protection for COVID vaccines removed. When that happens, they can be made worldwide and reach more people.

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