• News Update 11/29/2021

▶ GLOBAL CONCERN GROWS OVER OMICRON VARIANT

Scientists in several places, from Hong Kong to Europe to North America, have confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The Netherlands reported 13 on Sunday, and both Canada and Australia each found two.

The World Health Organization has called for calm as countries around the world race to block the variant by closing borders.

Health ministers from the G7 are to meet virtually today to discuss how to respond to Omicron.

The BBC's Charles Haviland reports.

[Reporter]
The United States becomes the latest country to enforce a flight ban on southern African countries as the world scrambles to restrict the spread of the new variant.

But even as more flights are grounded, more countries are reporting their first cases of the disease. Its degree of severity is still being assessed.

The World Health Organization says it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible than other variants or causes worse illness.

The G7 health ministers will later today weigh what more should be done to prevent a resurgence of the pandemic.

▶ SOUTH AFRICA URGES REVERSAL OF TRAVEL BANS

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has criticized countries that have imposed travel bans since the discovery of the omicron coronavirus variant last week.

Ramaphosa accused them of what he termed Afrophobia and called on them to urgently reverse their decisions.

[Clip: Ramaphosa]
"These restrictions are completely unjustified. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science. The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine the ability to respond to and also to recover from the pandemic."

▶ S. KOREA REPORTS OVER 3,000 NEW COVID-19 CASES

South Korea's daily number of new COVID-19 cases stayed below 4,000 for a second straight day Monday, but the high number of critically ill patients remained a serious concern amid worries over the emergence of a new variant.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 3,309 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 23 imported from abroad.

Officials noted the tally was down from 3,928 reported Sunday and 4,068 on Saturday, due to less virus testing on weekends.

The number of patients in critical condition nationwide stood at 629, while 32 more people lost their lives to the virus, raising the total death toll to 3,580 since the pandemic began.

The fatality rate rose to 0.8 percent, according to the KDCA.

The government is expected to announce revised quarantine measures in the afternoon to tackle the surge in infections, which follows nearly a month of looser social distancing aimed at returning to "normal life."

In response to global worries over the new Omicron variant, South Korea has implemented a ban on foreign arrivals from eight African countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

▶ HEALTH MINISTER STRESSES NEED FOR BOOSTER SHOTS

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol has reiterated calls for people to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, calling it an important step to help the country return to life before the pandemic sooner than later.

Kwon said he hopes more citizens will participate in the booster shot program as they did with the first rollout of vaccines.

During an interagency COVID response meeting, the minister also stressed the need for continued use of face masks, voluntary virus testing and regular ventilation of indoor spaces.

▶ CENTRAL REGION TO GET HIT BY ULTRAFINE DUST

Seasonal norms have returned ahead of chillier conditions later this week.

Daytime highs will rise into the teens in most parts.

But bad levels of ultrafine dust will affect air quality in the capital region and the Chungcheong provinces this afternoon.






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