As the G7 dubbed the Omicron version the biggest threat to global public health, US President Joe Biden warned of a “winter of severe illness and death” for individuals who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The harsh statements came when the UK experienced over 88,000 Covid-19 infections, a second straight day high, causing France to apply “drastic” additional travel restrictions to the UK.
Scientists are unsure how hazardous the highly altered Omicron variety is, but preliminary evidence suggests it is more vaccine resistant and transmissible than the Delta variant.
The World Health Organization announced earlier this week that the strain has been reported in 77 countries and has “probably” spread undetected to the majority of countries at a faster rate than any previous viral variety.
To combat Omicron, countries around the world have been advising against international travel while tightening domestic restrictions and strengthening vaccine efforts.
The G7 declared the variation the “biggest current threat to global public health” on Thursday, stating that its appearance made it “more important than ever” for countries to work together and share data.
According to a statement, the countries’ health ministers stressed the “increasing importance of booster campaigns and regular testing” at a conference hosted by group chair Britain.
Biden’s winter warning came as he urged Americans who have already had two vaccines to get boosters, and vaccine skeptics to be vaccinated.
“The only real protection is to get your shot,” he stated, with the White House stating the government would rather focus on vaccination than implement specific restrictive measures.
“The tools that we have, we know are working,” said deputy White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre, adding, “We’re just going to continue pushing forward… to get Americans vaccinated and boosted.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is currently experiencing 1,150 Covid-19 deaths every day, making it the world’s worst-affected country (CDC).
The average daily cases of infection in the United States increased by 35% in the first two weeks of December.
The magnitude of the threat, however, was felt most strongly across the Atlantic, even as Britain held off on placing official limits on socializing while waiting for more evidence of Omicron’s severity.
After the Alpha variety ravaged the country last year, Christmas celebrations were severely reduced.
Britons had hoped that this year would be different, but the number of cases has risen to new highs.
Many Britons are scrambling to change their plans as they worry the strain may flood hospitals during the holiday season.
Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assurances that such meetings could still take place, Queen Elizabeth II has canceled her traditional pre-Christmas family lunch for next week as a precaution.
Six more football matches were postponed by the Premier League on Thursday, however the league stated that it planned to “continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible”
With the number of cases in the UK surging, France barred all non-essential travel to and from the country on Thursday.
Travelers will need “an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated… People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons.” starting at 2300 GMT on Friday.