The new omicron variant of Covid-19 sprouts new problems on the international stage and in the local communities.

The new Omicron variant of Covid-19 has already forced countries like Japan, Australia and the Philippines to enforce travel restrictions, with some even suspending flights all together. Closer to home, Scotland and Wales are calling for tougher self-isolation travel rules as the ninth case of Omicron has been detected in the UK. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford have both written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a joint letter asking, among other things, for planning to be put in place to allow Wales or Scotland to reactivate financial support should variant cases escalate more than in England. Sturgeon has also called for an emergency UK government meeting, explaining that the concerns her and Drakeford shared with Prime Minister Johnson need further discussion. The Prime Minister is yet to comment at the time of writing. Despite this, the public has been advised not to cancel Christmas plans.

So, what makes this variant different? According to reports from a hospital in the Czech Republic, a fully-vaccinated woman who has just returned to the country from Namibia has tested positive for the Omicron variant. This could show that the current Covid-19 vaccines are not effective at stopping transmission of the variant but, just like the symptoms of the variant, Prof Adam Finn says unfortunately it is too early to say definitively. However, a positive that has recently been discovered is that Prof Linda Bould from the University of Edinburgh has said that lateral flow tests do return positive results for people infected with the variant.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) has called for a special three-day session of the WHA (World Health Assembly) over concerns of pandemic preparedness and response for some WHO member states. The special session is only the second in the 73-year history of the WHO and normal sessions usually occur during May. The President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the lifting of Omicron travel bans in a controversial national address. He has labelled the bans “scientifically unjustified” and directly addressed those countries by saying “We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” and that the “prohibition of travel is not informed by science,”.