Newsman: The Covid-19 Omicron variant was first identified on Wednesday, November’24th and within 48 hours has set off the panic worldwide. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency due to the potential risk ahead of new threats. South African scientists identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province.
It’s unclear where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has now been seen in travelers to Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state of emergency declaration, which goes into effect on Dec. 3, will allow the state to acquire pandemic-fighting supplies, increase hospital capacity and fight potential staffing shortages. It would also allow the state Health Department to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures at hospitals. This declaration of ‘state of emergency’ is ahead of potential COVID-19 spikes this winter due to the already-circulating Delta and newly-identified Omicron variants of coronavirus.
“We continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul said.
In her release Friday, Hochul again urged New Yorkers to get the jab, noting that just under 10 percent of adults in the state hadn’t gotten at least one shot.
“The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic, and I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated,” she said. The move comes hours after the governor said her office was closely monitoring the new variant, which was first sequenced in South Africa earlier this week.
The variant contains around 50 concerning mutations from the original SARS CoV-2 virus that appeared in China in 2019, including more than 10 to the spike protein that allows the virus to access human cells.
On Friday, the World Health Organization named the new strain and labeled it a variant of concern. But it remains whether it will take a foothold globally – or dodge immune responses from either prior infections or vaccination.
Nevertheless, the news roiled markets worldwide; the Dow posted its worst day in more than a year on what is otherwise the single biggest day on the calendar for retailers. And the United States joined Canada and much of Europe in blocking travelers from several countries in southern Africa as a result.