US, Germany plan new restrictions as Omicron shakes investors up

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  • US reports first case of Omicron in traveler from South Africa
  • United States to announce measures to fight COVID-19 this winter
  • European agency: Omicron could cause half of infections in Europe in a few months

BERLIN / WASHINGTON, December 2 (Reuters) – The United States, Germany and Russia on Thursday joined countries with tighter COVID-19 restrictions as the Omicron coronavirus variant rocked markets as investors worried by the impact on the global economic recovery.

Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa last month and has spread to at least two dozen countries, just as parts of Europe are grappling with an upsurge in disease. infections of the better known Delta variant.

But South Africa said Thursday it was seeing an increase in COVID-19 re-infections in patients contracting Omicron in ways it had not experienced with previous variants.

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“The previous infection protected against Delta but now with Omicron that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Professor Anne von Gottberg said, while adding that South African scientists studying the Omicron outbreak believed the symptoms were less severe for people re-infected with the new variant.

The European Union’s public health agency, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said Omicron could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe in some months. Read more

European stock indices fell on Thursday, reversing gains from the previous session, but Wall Street futures showed a slightly stronger open in the US session. Markets initially fell amid concerns over the new variant last Friday, and since then they have fluctuated. Read more

The United States, India, France and Finland were among the countries that reported their first cases of the variant. Read more

In Germany, the government was discussing with regional leaders restricting access for unvaccinated people to all but the most essential businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Authorities are keen to avoid derailing a fragile recovery in Germany’s economy, Europe’s largest, and should keep businesses open to people who have been fully vaccinated – around 69% of the population – or who have recovered of COVID-19.

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In the United States, the Biden administration was expected to announce measures including extending requirements for travelers to wear masks until mid-March later Thursday.

Early next week, the United States will require inbound international travelers to be tested for COVID-19 within one day of departure, regardless of their vaccination status.

It will also force private health insurance companies to reimburse customers for COVID-19 home testing, a senior administration official said. Read more

Sweden also said on Thursday it could impose further restrictions as early as next week, without giving details. Read more

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

The first known US case, announced Wednesday night, was a fully vaccinated person in California who returned from South Africa to the United States on November 22 and tested positive seven days later. The French case, in the Paris region, was a passenger from Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Russia has imposed a two-week quarantine on travelers from some African countries, including South Africa, the Interfax news agency said, citing a senior official.

Amid all the new restrictions, Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair (RYA.I), has said it expects a tough time this Christmas, though it is still optimistic about it. on summer demand.

In Canada, industry groups have warned that a plan to require COVID-19 testing for all arrivals except the United States on international flights could cause ‘chaos’ and long lines whether passengers had to be tested at airports.

In the Netherlands, health authorities have requested pre-flight COVID-19 testing for all travel from outside the European Union, after it was found that around 90% of 62 passengers tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa on November 21. 26 had been vaccinated.

‘REAL ENEMY’

The World Health Organization is deploying a surge team to South Africa’s Gauteng province, the epicenter of the Omicron outbreak, to help with surveillance and contact tracing, she said on Thursday. .

The CEO of BioNTech said the vaccine he is making with Pfizer (PFE.N) is likely to offer strong protection against serious illnesses from Omicron.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) said laboratory analysis of the antibody-based COVID-19 therapy she is developing has shown to be effective against Omicron. Read more

This contrasts with Regeneron’s (REGN.O) study of its COVID-19 antibody drug, which it says may be less effective against Omicron. Moderna’s top boss (MRNA.O) raised similar concerns about the company’s vaccine.

In France, the country’s main scientific adviser, Jean-François Delfraissy, said the “real enemy” so far was still the Delta variant, spreading in a fifth wave. Read more

“We should see a gradual ramp-up of the Omicron variant, which will take over from Delta,” perhaps by the end of January, he told BFM television.

The French infection in Omicron, in the Paris region, was a passenger from Nigeria. This follows a case discovered last month on the island of Reunion, in the French Indian Ocean.

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“The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a ‘variant of concern’, due to the number of mutations that could help it spread or escape antibodies from a previous infection or vaccination.

Reporting from Reuters Offices Editing by Stephen Coates, Nick Macfie and Ingrid Melander Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Barbara Lewis and Frances Kerry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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