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Travel restrictions reappear as omicron develops

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Some COVID travel bans are going back into place as countries try to slow the spread of a new COVID variant until more is known about it.

The new variant is called omicron and is being considered a “variant of concern.” the World Health Organization says it has the potential to pose a “very high global risk.”

“No country, no community and no individual is safe until we are all safe,” said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with World Health Organization.

Several countries are slamming their doors shut again to try to keep the new variant at bay. At the White House Monday, President Biden defended the travel restrictions barring non-U.S. citizens from eight southern African nations from entering the country.

“It gives us time to take more actions; to move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get your vaccine,” said President Biden.

Pfizer and Moderna are already preparing to reformulate their vaccines if necessary.

“Given the large number of mutations, it is highly possible that the efficacy of the vaccines, all of them, is going down. But we need to wait for the data to know if this is true, and how much is it going down,” said Stephane Bancel who is the CEO of Moderna.

“I’m very, very, very confident that this drug works for all known mutations, including the omicron one. But we are working on follow-up drugs for the eventual case that maybe a resistance is developed,” said Albert Bourla who is the CEO of Pfizer.

But omicron has many people here in northeastern and central Pennsylvania concerned as the holidays and winter are right around the corner.

“I am a big holiday guy. It might not affect it, but it might. You gotta play it by ear,” said West Scranton resident Scott Fassett.

“I’m not worried about it just yet because I haven’t heard about it being anywhere near us and I don’t travel outside to go anywhere. But, I guess if it were to come here closer to home, I would be more worried about it,” said Norma Perez who lives in Scranton.

Eyewitness News spoke to an infectious disease expert at Geisinger who says it’s a simple reminder that we’re still in the midst of the pandemic.

“The same precautions we have been talking about for many many months now or over a year still apply to this holiday season in regard to vaccination, masking, social distancing and hand hygiene,” said Alison Brodginski who is the Northeast Director of Infectious Diseases.

She says omicron appears to spread easier than previous variants, but fortunately, the symptoms have been mild in the cases reported thus far.

President Biden says he will lay out a strategy on Thursday that will fight COVID-19 this winter with vaccinations and testing.

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