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President Biden Announces Travel Restrictions On Eight South African Countries In An Effort To Slow The Spread Of New COVID-19 Variant

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The race to stop the spread of another COVID-19 variant.

"We don't know a lot about the variant except that it is of great concern it seems to spread rapidly," said President Biden.

The new variant Omicron was first reported in South Africa on Wednesday is mutating quickly. Health experts fear it could be more transmissible than the Delta variant.

"It is something that has emerged in South Africa and is spreading at a reasonably rapid rate," said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

It prompted countries around the world to impose travel restrictions Friday. The United States did the same based on advice from the CDC.

"There's no travel to and from South Africa and six other countries except for American citizens who are able to come back," said President Biden.

The World Health Organization met Friday to discuss Omicron classifying it as a "variant of concern."

"This variant has a large number of mutations and the concern is when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," said Maria Van Kerkhove.

Omicron has yet to be detected in the United States but has spread to other countries including Israel and Belgium.

"There's a lot of travel, you never know exactly where it is. That's the reason we're getting together with them to try and get the precise molecular makeup of it so we can test for it," Dr. Fauci added.

Pfizer and Moderna are working to determine if their vaccines are effective against the new variant. Pfizer says they should know in about two weeks.

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