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New Variant

SAFETY MEASURE People wear masks in the United Kingdom, on November 29. MARK KERRISON—IN PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES

Scientists in South Africa have reported a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s called Omicron. It has since been found in other parts of the world. Countries have restricted travel from South Africa and other African nations. This is to slow the virus’s spread.

COVID-19 is “not done with us,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says. He’s director-general of the World Health Organization. The agency calls Omicron a “variant of concern.”

Omicron could spread more easily than other versions of the virus. Current vaccines might be less effective against it. Still, it’s likely they’ll protect against severe illness and death. Vaccine makers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna say they can make changes to their shots if necessary.

The first known case in the United States was reported on December 1. Two days before, President Joe Biden gave a speech. He said Omicron is “not a cause for panic.” He urged people to get vaccinated.

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