The G7 health ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday about the new variation of the Omicron Covid-19 that is spreading around the world and forcing border closures, as experts rush to assess the level of threat posed by the new model.
The summit was convened by the chair of the G7 in Britain, one of the fastest growing countries in the world to experience the effects of radical change.
On Monday, Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said he was blocking all new arrivals from the country, after saying: “We are taking very serious action.” The ban will take effect on Tuesday.
Kishida said Japan, where more than 76% of people have been fully vaccinated, will continue with plans to install booster shots from next month, starting with adults and health workers.
The Japanese initiative, which continuously reports Covid-19 case numbers, comes a day after tightening restrictions on travelers from South Africa and eight other countries, after a few weeks easing restrictions on travelers from overseas.
Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and in an effort to stop the spread, countries took immediate action to re-establish travel restrictions. Japan’s move follows Israel, which has blocked access to all foreign nationals. The US, Britain, Brazil and Canada were among many other countries to introduce travel routes.
To date, this species has been found in more than a dozen countries throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. It has also been confirmed in North America, by cases found in Canada.
The border closure has been criticized by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has called on countries to lift travel bans “before any further damage to our economy”.
The head of the World Health Organization in Africa also urged countries to pursue science rather than imposing aircraft restrictions on the purpose of containing a new version of Covid.
“In contrast to the Omicron diversity now found in a number of regions of the world, which imposes travel restrictions on Africa is a threat to international unity,” said WHO regional director Matshidiso Moeti.
As countries rush to close their borders, scientists are rushing to find out if these differences are more frightening than other strains of the virus. It is not yet clear what vaccine is available or how fast Omicron is spreading.
The chief of infectious diseases in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday that it would take about two weeks to get accurate information about Omicron.
Fauci said he believed the existing policies could provide “a certain level of protection in Covid’s difficult situations”, and officials also praised their recommendation that vaccinated Americans obtain a powerful shotgun.
Biden was due to update the public on the new diversity and American response on Monday, the White House said.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said manufacturers of vaccines needed two to three weeks to “get a full picture of the quality of the changes”. “We now know we are in the race for time,” he said.
To combat Omicron’s diversity spread, UK could extend its booster vaccination program from Monday. Australia is also reviewing its exciting shooting times.
This new type has highlighted significant variations in vaccine rates around the world. Even in most developed countries offering third-dose boosters, less than 7% of people in poor countries have access to their first Covid-19 rifle, according to medical and human rights groups.
In Britain, health secretary Sajid Javid said new Covid rules would be implemented from Tuesday, including compulsory mask wear on shops and public transportation in England, as well as stricter restrictions on travelers arriving from abroad.