WHO urges countries to lift travel bans and not ask for vaccination proof Photograph:( Reuters )
The Omicron variant entered Europe as Belgium reported the first case. The new virus strain was reportedly detected in South Africa's Gauteng province.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) on Friday classified the new coronavirus strain detected in South Africa as a "variant of concern".
The world health body named the new B.1.1.529 strain as 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," it said.
The variant entered Europe as Belgium reported the first case as European nations moved to impose travel ban on South Africa and other southern African countries.
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European Commission urged EU countries to "introduce rapidly restrictions on all travel into the EU from seven countries in the Southern Africa region" as Europe began to fortify its response against the virus.
Officials in Belgium said the Omicron strain was detected in a traveller from Egypt. The new virus strain was reportedly detected in South Africa's Gauteng province.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said, adding, "preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant as compared to other variants of concern."
The new variant announcement and the resultant travel ban imposed by European nations hit world markets as US oil prices plunged.
(With inputs from Agencies)