November 29 Omicron Covid-19 variant news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021
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10:49 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Stocks rebound after Omicron plunge

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the start of trading on Monday following Friday’s steep decline in global stocks over fears of the new omicron Covid variant discovered in South Africa on November 29, 2021 in New York City. Stocks surged in morning trading as investors get more data on the new variant and reports that symptoms have so far been mild for those who have contracted it. 
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the start of trading on Monday following Friday’s steep decline in global stocks over fears of the new omicron Covid variant discovered in South Africa on November 29, 2021 in New York City. Stocks surged in morning trading as investors get more data on the new variant and reports that symptoms have so far been mild for those who have contracted it.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Stocks rebounded Monday, bouncing back from the steep selloff at the end of last week when investors feared the Omicron Covid variant could disrupt the global economic rebound.

Reports of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus brought back memories of last summer when the fast-spreading Delta variant put a dent in the recovery and consumer confidence. This spooked investors on a traditionally quiet day in the market following Thanksgiving, leading to one of the worst days for stocks this year.

The Dow logged its worst day since October 2020, while the S&P 500 had its worst performance since February. The Nasdaq Composite recorded its steepest fall since September. 

But just as the market quickly bounced back from its Delta fears, history appears to be repeating itself: investors are taking a breath and sensing a buying opportunity.

The market opened in the green, with all three indexes sharply higher. 

  • The Dow opened up 375 points, or 1.1%, while the S&P rose 1.2%. The Nasdaq was 1.5% higher.

Other asset classes that were battered Friday — notably oil and cryptocurrencies — also recovered.

  • US oil prices were up 6.7%, or almost $5, at $72.69 per barrel around the time of the stock market open. That doesn't totally make up for Friday's drop, but it takes back a chunk of it.
  • The global oil benchmark Brent was up 5.7% at $76.84 per barrel.
  • Bitcoin was up more than 5%.
10:37 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

New York allows hospitals to limit non-essential procedures ahead of possible winter spike of Covid-19

From CNN's Sahar Akbarzai  

Governor Kathy Hochul holds media briefing at the governor's office on 3rd avenue in Manhattan on November 1st, 2021
Governor Kathy Hochul holds media briefing at the governor's office on 3rd avenue in Manhattan on November 1st, 2021 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Getty Images)

New York hospitals will once again be allowed to limit non-essential procedures after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Friday to try to raise hospital capacity and deal with staffing shortages ahead of possible winter spikes in Covid-19 cases. 

The order allows the state’s Department of Health to limit non-essential and non-urgent procedures for hospitals with limited capacity starting this coming Friday, according to a press release from the governor’s office

“We continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it's coming," Hochul said, adding, “I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months.” 

The order marks the first time that non-essential hospital services were limited since Dec. 23, 2020.

Friday's emergency declaration also expands the state's purchasing powers to rapidly obtain critical supplies to combat the pandemic, according to the governor's office.

The governor continued to encourage Covid-19 vaccinations, noting that more than 90% of all adults in New York have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 2 million booster shots have been administered.

9:56 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Send us your questions about the new Omicron variant

Do you have a question about the new Omicron variant, the vaccines' efficacy against it, and its impact on controlling the pandemic?

Submit your question below and it could get answered by medical experts.

9:15 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

This American family is stranded in South Africa after a slew of sudden travel bans went into effect

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Riley Campbell, left, and Lauren Kennedy on November 29.
Riley Campbell, left, and Lauren Kennedy on November 29. (CNN)

Lauren Kennedy was in South Africa, the last leg of a long-awaited vacation with her daughter Riley Campbell, when countries started shutting their borders to passengers from several southern African nations following the news of the discovery of the Omicron variant.

As most flights between Johannesburg and the United States are routed through Europe, the mother and daughter soon discovered they were stranded.

"We've probably ... had about 10 flights booked that were either canceled or that we were not allowed to board the flight," she told CNN. "Those bans were coming in like hour by hour, day by day, that each country was closing its borders to anybody who didn't hold a European passport."

Currently, they hope to board a direct flight to the US that they booked for Monday night.

The relief, Kennedy says, is that they are vaccinated and have tested negative for Covid-19 as of Sunday.

However, communication with consulates and embassies has been unsuccessful.

"Of course this happened on a weekend. And of all weekends, a holiday weekend. So it's been pretty tricky. We haven't been able to talk to anybody at the consulate or embassy in South Africa. But we've had a number of supportive friends in America and some people within the government who have been sort of giving us tips, and being really helpful about what to expect and how to anticipate the next few days. We're just really putting one foot in front of the other right now," she said.

Watch more:

9:08 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

If needed, Moderna could begin testing and making an Omicron-specific vaccine in 2 to 3 months, official says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine is in Staten Island, New York, on April 16.
A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine is in Staten Island, New York, on April 16. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)

It would take Moderna two to three months to begin and manufacturing an Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine, if it's needed, Dr. Paul Burton, chief medical officer of Moderna, said on Good Morning America Monday.

“It’s going to take some weeks, you know, two to three months is probably what we’re looking at to be able to really begin to test it and manufacture it," he said.

Asked what scientists are doing right now to get answers to how the vaccines hold up against Omicron, how contagious it is and how virulent it is, Burton said those are "key questions" scientists are studying.

"How transmissible is it? We think it’s probably quite transmissible. But how severe is the disease it causes? We don’t really know the answer to that question yet. And will it be neutralizable, can we contain it with the currently available vaccines? So, we at Moderna and other vaccine manufacturers here in the US and around the world are testing samples from people who have received our vaccines against the strains.”

8:41 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Malawi's president says travel bans are based on "Afrophobia" and not science

From CNN’s Larry Madowo

President of Malawi Lazarus Chakwera speaks during a summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, on August 17.
President of Malawi Lazarus Chakwera speaks during a summit in Lilongwe, Malawi, on August 17. (Amos Gumulira/AFP/Getty Images)

Travel bans imposed on travelers from Southern Africa are based on "Afrophobia" and not science, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said.

In a post on his verified Facebook page, Chakwera said that the world should be grateful to South Africa’s scientists for identifying the Omicron variant of Covid-19 before anyone else.

The Malawian president who is also the chairman of the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) said everyone is concerned about the new coronavirus variant. “But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on SADC countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for,” he wrote. “Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia.”

Some Africans on social media have blamed the travel bans on racism, pointing out that wealthy nations which have also reported the Omicron variant don’t receive the same treatment.

South Africa’s Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement Saturday that the travel restrictions were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.” 

8:23 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

CDC is on top of looking for Omicron cases in the US, Fauci says 

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies in Washington, DC, on November 4.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies in Washington, DC, on November 4. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America Monday to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and the Omicron variant.

Here are some of the highlights from his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

  • On whether there are any cases of Omicron in the US: “No, not at all George, no confirmed cases. But, obviously, we’re on high alert. The CDC, who does that kind of surveillance, is very, very on top of this, looking for this.” 
  • On Omicron's transmissibility: “It’s inevitable that sooner or later it’s going to spread widely because it has at least the molecular characteristics of being highly transmissible, even though there are a lot of things about it that we do not know but that will be able to be ascertained in the next week or two, I believe.” 
  • On reports coming out of Israel and South Africa that Omicron may have milder symptoms: “I think that’s premature to say that, George, we just do not know.” 
  • On if more restrictions should be expected: “I don’t think so at all, George. Right now, the important thing that I’ve been saying and that all of us have been saying on the medical team, is that we just need to make sure that we know we have tools against virus in general, this SARS-CoV-2.”  
8:06 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

More Dutch care homes now have a Covid case than at any point in the pandemic

From CNN’s Mick Krever

More care homes in the Netherlands now have a positive coronavirus case than at any other point in the pandemic, data from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shows.

The country is battling a wave of Delta Covid-19 infections, which have put pressure on hospitals and forced fresh restrictions in the country.

It has so far also reported 13 cases of the new Omicron variant.

As of Saturday, 970 care homes had at least one resident who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. That represents 39.58% of the 2,450 total care homes in the country, according to the RIVM. The previous record, of 876, was set during the country’s second wave, on January 9, 2021.

The Netherlands on Sunday went back into partial lockdown amid record numbers of new infections, and an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

The government is once again advising people to remain at home “as much as possible” and mandating that all non-essential stores and businesses like gyms and theaters close every day between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. for a period of three weeks. Supermarkets must close at 8 p.m. Those in care homes will still be able to receive visitors.

Cees Hertogh, professor of elderly care medicine and an adviser to the government’s Outbreak Management Team, attributed the numbers in care homes to a combination of waning immunity, the high risk faced by elderly people, and the Delta variant.

The Netherlands has been late to administer booster shots, only starting on November 19 to offer booster shots to those age 80 and older, in care homes, and care workers. Of those age 81 and older, 89% have been “fully vaccinated,” according to government figures. That number is even higher for those aged 71 to 80 years: 93%.

The number of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands is now far higher than at any other point in the pandemic, nearly double the number of daily infections last winter, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. Over the past week, an average of 22,506 per day have tested positive. The previous record was 11,728 average infections per day, set in December 2020.

7:56 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Travels bans due to Omicron variant are “outrageous,” South African Covid-19 expert says  

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Salim Abdool Karim on November 29.
Salim Abdool Karim on November 29. (CNN)

Travel bans are “outrageous” and will have little, if any, impact on stopping the spread of the new Omicron variant, Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told CNN’s John Berman on New Day Monday.

“Firstly, it’s outrageous that, you know, South Africa and southern Africa is being punished for having good surveillance and, you know, ensuring that we wanted to be completely transparent and to share this data with the rest of the world as soon as we knew it and confirmed it,” Karim said, when asked about travel restrictions put in place and how effective they were. 

“If you think about, you know, what we’ve experienced with the Delta variant, within a matter of three weeks it was in over 53 countries, so it’s going to become superfluous and irrelevant to try and block travel from, you know, a few countries because it will be spreading in many other countries,” he said.

“Indeed, by the time we got to know about it, which was pretty quickly given that the first patient was probably in our system about the ninth of November, that we’re looking at transmission has probably seeded itself in most countries.”  

The early “knee jerk reaction” to block travel will slow the spread slightly at best, Karim said, but will probably have “little if any impact” because there is already a good approach to preventing the spread of the virus through air and sea travel. 

This involves five key components, he said. Ensuring that vaccinated people are the ones travelling, that they have a negative PCR test, are asymptomatic, wear masks in travel and are tested on entry.

“Those things, you know, will sift out 99.9% of the cases,” he said.