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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11:15 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

India offers medical supplies to African nations in fight against Omicron variant

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi 

India says it “stands ready” to support countries in Africa affected by the Omicron variant, including providing vaccines and medical supplies.

In a statement Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it was offering support to countries experiencing Omicron outbreaks by providing drugs, test kits, gloves, PPE kits and medical equipment such as ventilators.

The ministry also encouraged African nations to order India's Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX, the World Health Organization’s global vaccine sharing program, or bilaterally.

"We express our solidarity with the countries, particularly in Africa, who have so far been affected by the Omicron variant," the MEA said. 

"The Government of India stands ready to support the countries affected in Africa in dealing with the Omicron variant, including by supplies of Made-in-India vaccines."

The MEA said the government has approved all orders placed so far by COVAX for supplies of Covishield, a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford and produced by the Serum Institute of India, to African nations such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea and Lesotho.

Supplies of the India-made Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin have also been approved for Botswana.

“Any new requirement projected either bilaterally or through COVAX will be considered expeditiously,” according to the statement.

To date, India has supplied more than 25 million doses of its domestically developed vaccines to 41 countries in Africa through donations and COVAX supplies.

11:38 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Rise of Omicron variant shows need to vaccinate the world, health expert says

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

A worker unloads boxes from the consignment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines against the Covid-19 Coronavirus donated to Nepal by the US government at a cold storage facility in Kathmandu on October 25, 2021
A worker unloads boxes from the consignment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines against the Covid-19 Coronavirus donated to Nepal by the US government at a cold storage facility in Kathmandu on October 25, 2021 (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

The world population needs to be vaccinated urgently to ensure any future coronavirus variants are stopped before they can begin, a special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization said Monday.

“What we’ve got here is a five alarm blaze and the world has not sent out enough firetrucks,” said Peter Singer, an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Variants can develop when the virus spreads, making areas with low vaccination rates particularly dangerous. The next variant of concern can be prevented if more of the world is protected, but there is a lot of work to do, Singer said.

The vaccination rate is currently only about 7% in Africa, he said. 

“Omicron is like a wake-up call, as though we needed another wake-up call, to vaccinate the world,” he said. “One of the best ways to keep Americans safe is to vaccinate the world.”

In the meantime, Singer said, people need to be cautious as scientists work out how much of a threat Omicron poses. “I think a prudent approach here is called for and that means raising your guard,” he said.

Singer said that included getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and physical distancing. 

“Those are prudent things that people can do to take in their own hands while the answers are being sorted out,” he said.

10:31 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Ecuador imposes travel restrictions due to Omicron variant

From CNN's Kiarinna Parisi and Karol Suarez

Ecuador announced new travel restrictions Monday on arrivals from a number of African countries in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

President Guillermo Lasso said people coming from any country on the banned list would be refused entry to Ecuador, even if they had only stopped over or transited through those countries.

The countries include South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia. The measures will go into effect Wednesday.

At the same time, Lasso said Ecuador's border with Colombia would be reopened in phases, starting with the transport of goods.

In order to enter Ecuador, all travelers must present their vaccination certificate and a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours. Children under the age of 16 must present a negative PCR test.

At least 70 countries and territories have now imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the new variant.

10:01 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Pfizer CEO says he’s "not in a panic" about Omicron but working on a vaccine just in case

From CNN's Health's Maggie Fox

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. (CNN)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Monday he's not panicking about the Omicron variant but his company is readying an updated vaccine just in case one is needed.

“I think I’m concerned, but I’m not in panic — as the President said. I think we have been preparing for a moment like that for the last few months and I think we are now really very well prepared to win this battle,” Bourla told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Bourla said it will take two to three weeks to be able to fully assess how well the Pfizer vaccine works against Omicron. “I doubt that the results will be that we can find ourselves that we are not protecting at all,” Bourla said.

Whether or not the vaccine is as effective against Omicron as it is against the Delta variant, boosters should reduce the threat dramatically, Bourla said.

Pfizer has already started producing a Covid-19 vaccine specifically targeting Omicron, as it has with other variants, Bourla said. “If indeed we need it, we will not waste any time,” he said.

The company had produced a vaccine specifically formulated against the Delta variant and another against the Beta variant, but didn’t need either, because its original vaccine worked well against those strains. If a new vaccine is needed for Omicron, Bourla said it would take 100 days or fewer to get it tested and into production.

“We should be able to transition manufacturing to this new vaccine without losing any single dose, almost any single dose, from the current capacity,” Bourla said.

Everyone around the world must have access to vaccinations, Bourla said.

“In a pandemic, you’re as protected as your neighbor,” he said. 
9:09 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

At least 69 countries and territories have imposed travel restrictions in response to Omicron

From CNN’s Tim Lister, Hira Humayun and AnneClaire Stapleton

At least 69 countries and territories have imposed travel restrictions in response to the spreading Omicron variant, according to analysis and data compiled by CNN. 

Here's the list:

  1. Angola    
  2. Argentina   
  3. Australia   
  4. Austria*
  5. Bahrain   
  6. Belgium*
  7. Brazil   
  8. Bulgaria*
  9. Canada   
  10. Chile  
  11. Colombia    
  12. Croatia*
  13. Cuba    
  14. Czech Republic*
  15. Denmark*
  16. Egypt    
  17. Estonia*
  18. Fiji  
  19. Finland*
  20. France*
  21. Germany*
  22. Greece*
  23. Guatemala    
  24. Hong Kong   
  25. Hungary*
  26. India     
  27. Indonesia   
  28. Ireland*
  29. Israel 
  30. Italy*
  31. Japan     
  32. Jordan   
  33. Kuwait   
  34. Latvia*
  35. Lithuania*
  36. Luxembourg*
  37. Malaysia   
  38. Maldives   
  39. Malta*
  40. Morocco   
  41. Netherlands*
  42. New Zealand   
  43. Norway    
  44. Oman   
  45. Pakistan  
  46. Paraguay  
  47. Philippines   
  48. Poland*
  49. Portugal*
  50. Qatar   
  51. Republic of Cyprus*
  52. Romania*
  53. Russia    
  54. Rwanda  
  55. Saudi Arabia    
  56. Singapore   
  57. Slovakia*
  58. Slovenia*
  59. South Korea   
  60. Spain*
  61. Sri Lanka   
  62. Sweden*
  63. Switzerland  
  64. Taiwan   
  65. Thailand   
  66. Turkey   
  67. United Arab Emirates  
  68. United Kingdom  
  69. United States

*European Union member state

10:01 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Omicron may make it harder to control the pandemic, expert says

From CNN Health's Jen Christensen

Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health.
Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health. (CNN)

The Omicron variant will likely make it more difficult for countries to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control, Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University School of Public Health, said Monday.

“What concerns me about this, the variant, is two things. One, is pretty good circumstantial, but good, evidence that it is highly contagious, maybe more contagious than the Delta variant,” Jha told CNN’s Kate Bolduan.

Jha said he was also concerned because many of the mutations seen in Omicron affect the spike protein, which is the part of the virus specifically targeted by vaccines and certain treatments such as monoclonal antibodies.

“Which really worries me about vaccine efficacy,” Jha said. “I’m not worried that the vaccines won’t work at all, but I’m worried the vaccines will take a hit on their efficacy and if they do, that’s going to make it harder to control this pandemic.” 

While vaccine maker Moderna has said it is working on a potential Covid-19 booster that would specifically work against the Omicron variant, Jha said no one should wait for it to get a booster. 

“There’s good reason to believe that a boosted person will have, still, a pretty good degree of protection against this specific variant. Not perfect, maybe not 100%, but still a good degree of protection, and whether we are going to need an Omicron-specific booster or not, that will be down the road,” he said.  
8:51 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

At least 17 countries and territories have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant

From CNN’s Tim Lister, Hira Humayun and AnneClaire Stapleton

At least 17 countries and territories have confirmed Omicron variant cases, according to analysis and data compiled by CNN.

Spain and Austria both reported their first cases of the Omicron variant in the past 24 hours, while Germany confirmed its first infection with no overseas travel history.

These countries and territories have confirmed Omicron infections:

  1. Australia  
  2. Austria  
  3. Belgium  
  4. Botswana  
  5. Canada  
  6. Czech Republic  
  7. Denmark  
  8. Germany  
  9. Hong Kong  
  10. Israel  
  11. Italy  
  12. Netherlands  
  13. Portugal  
  14. South Africa  
  15. Spain  
  16. Sweden  
  17. United Kingdom  
9:23 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Travel bans are an "illusion of protection" like "locking a screen door," Reiner says

From CNN Health’s Jen Christensen

 CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.
CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. (CNN)

Travel bans don’t really work to stop the spread of coronavirus variants, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner said Monday.

“I think this is really an illusion of protection,” the professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “The metaphor that I have been using — it’s like locking a screen door. You feel like you’ve done something to protect yourself, but you really haven’t.”

Foreign travelers to the United States have to be fully vaccinated and tested and those kinds of measures are effective at reducing the import of viruses, Reiner said.

While dozens of countries, including the US, have restricted travel from some African countries, such restrictions will not stop the spread of the Omicron variant. In fact, Reiner and several other scientists have said that they think Omicron is likely present in the US already.

“I’m not sure what this ban will achieve, other than to add some disincentive to other countries that might be looking to do intense sequencing and identify variants,” Reiner said. “This might incentivize those countries to maybe, you know, back off on that a little bit because no good deed goes unpunished.”
8:19 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Germany reports first Omicron case with no travel history

From CNN's Sara Mazloumsaki and Nadine Schmidt

A 39-year-old man from Leipzig has been diagnosed with the Omicron variant, the first confirmed case in Germany with no travel history, according to health officials.

The infected man had not traveled abroad recently nor had any contact with anyone who had traveled overseas, Leipzig Health Department director Regine Krause-Döring said.

It's the fourth Omicron case to be discovered in Germany. Two previous infections were detected in Munich and a third case was found in the state of Hesse.