The United States will distribute millions of free covid tests before the advance of the Omicron variant, which has forced several governments around the world to reimpose restrictions in the face of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Washington also assured that it will donate more than 500 million dollars to international organizations to fight the pandemic in many countries, while Israel announced new travel restrictions to the United States.
Amid fears that vaccines may not be as effective against this variant due to its multiple mutations, the European Union’s drug watchdog said it is too early to know whether drug companies will need to develop a specific injection for Omicron.
This variant, already detected in dozens of countries, appears to be more infectious, but initial indicators suggest that it does not cause more severe cases of COVID-19 than the delta.
Its rapid spread around the world has caused governments to reimpose restrictions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, burying hopes that the worst of the pandemic had been left behind.
“We have the tools to overcome this wave,” said a White House official, noting that no new restrictions are planned.
The United States will also give $ 580 million (MDD) to international organizations, mainly the WHO, to fight the covid in the framework of the Omicron advance, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The announcement was made after the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 73.2% of the new cases registered in the country last week corresponded to the variant Omicron. Denmark announced that the variant is also the dominant one in the country.
Biden took to Twitter to encourage people to get vaccinated and adopt safety measures such as wearing masks, warning that cases of Omicron are on the rise.
Faced with the spread of Omicron, Israel again imposed tough restrictions.
A parliamentary committee prohibited citizens and residents from traveling to the United States, placing it on a blacklist of more than 50 countries that also includes Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.
For his part, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asked countries to redouble their efforts to see the end of the pandemic and urged that the end-of-year events be canceled.
Better to “celebrate late than celebrate now and regret later,” he said.
Paris has already canceled its celebrations, while Germany on Tuesday limited New Year’s Eve gatherings and parties to 10 people and banned the public at major sporting events from December 28.
“This is not the time to have friendly parties and evenings with a lot of people,” Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz said after speaking with the country’s regional leaders.
As of December 28, major events “will no longer be held with spectators, this applies in particular to football matches,” he added. Nightclubs will also be closed.
The Spanish region of Catalonia is also considering restrictions, while Morocco announced a total ban on New Year’s celebrations.
Holland has already imposed a Christmas lockdown, and European officials have warned that omicron could be the dominant variant in Europe by mid-January.
Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the Government ruled out confinement during the December holidays.
Scientists are rushing to find out more about Omicron, first detected last month in South Africa and that it has infected people with the full vaccination schedule all over the world.
The head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that it is too early to know if a specific vaccine for Ómicron is necessary, as it is necessary to have more information.
“There is still no answer on whether we will need an adapted vaccine with a different composition to deal with this (Omicron) or any other variant,” said Emer Cooke.
His comments came at a time when the WHO approved another vaccine, that of the US firm Novavax.
The vaccine was licensed by the European Union, the fifth accepted in the block after those of Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Officials hope the Novavax vaccine, made with more conventional technology than others, will help persuade those who have questions about vaccination.