The new Covid-19 variant Omicron is highly transmissible and requires “urgent action,” G7 health ministers said Monday, praising South Africa’s “exemplary work” for both detecting the strain and alerting others to it.
“The global community is faced with the threat of a new, at a first evaluation, highly transmissible variant of Covid-19, which requires urgent action,” the health ministers said in a statement following an emergency meeting.
Underlining the “strategic relevance of ensuring access to vaccines”, they pledged to hold to their donation commitments, as well as to provide support to research and development.
At the same time, they will tackle “vaccine misinformation”, something that has in parts of the world led to resistance against inoculation.
A new meeting will be held in December, they said, committing to work closely together with the World Health Organisation and international partners to share information on Omicron.
Scientists in South Africa said they had last week detected the new variant with at least 10 mutations, compared with three for Beta or two for Delta – the strain that hit the global recovery and sent millions worldwide back into lockdown.
The Omicron discovery has sparked a frenzy of travel restrictions across the world.
A growing list of countries have already imposed travel curbs on southern Africa, including key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.